McMaster alumna Elizabeth Ivanecky’s first book tackles questions of happiness

C/O Elizabeth Ivanecky

Happiness is a guiding light in our lives. It’s something we all aspire to but rarely, if ever, do we actually ask people if they’re happy. McMaster alumna Elizabeth Ivanecky is asking this question. Her new book The Child in Us: A Collection of Stories about Happiness explores her own search for happiness through the stories of influential people in her life.

Growing up in Dundas, Ontario, stories were always an important part of Ivanecky’s life. Her father initially inspired her love of stories by sharing stories with her and siblings before bed. It  had always been Ivanecky’s dream to be an author.

Ivanecky completed two bachelors of arts at McMaster University: one as a double major in English & cultural studies and history, the other in French studies. After graduating in 2018, she entered the job market and worked mostly freelance jobs, doing translation work.

“After I finished university in 2018, I knew I needed to enter the job market quickly and so I just applied for whatever job I could get. But my brother was confused because he knew that I always wanted to be a writer and I’m applying for translation jobs, but those are the ones that I could get at the time. During my conversation I had with him he really pushed me to pursue my dream of being a writer, so that was the first thing that inspired this book,” explained Ivanecky.

Combined with this conversation with her brother, there were two other things that inspired her book. First was the song “The Child in Us” by Enigma, which really moved Ivanecky. Second was a quote from the late actor, Heath Ledger: “Everyone you meet always asks you if you have a career, are married or own a house as if life was some kind of grocery list. But no one ever asks if you’re happy.”

“I took that quote really literally and I thought I want to be that person that asked about people’s happiness because I myself was going through moments after university where I realized I really need to do the things that make me happy,” said Ivanecky.

I took that quote really literally and I thought I want to be that person that asked about people’s happiness because I myself was going through moments after university where I realized I really need to do the things that make me happy,

Elizabeth Ivanecky

She started the process of writing her book in 2019. First, she interviewed many of the influential people in her life and asked them what happiness meant to them. From there she refined her writing style, ultimately opting to use creative nonfiction to fully do justice to the stories she was sharing.

The thread that unites these stories is the importance of channelling your inner child in order to find and remember happiness.

“My goal was that people reflect more on their happiness. I think after you read my book you really get a sense that there’s no one right way to be happy in life and there’s no one right path. We each have different paths toward our happiness and it’s really just a matter of being intentional about your choices so that you can find happiness along the way in your journey . . . I include lessons at the end of each of my chapters so you learn different ways to find and remember your happiness and to channel the inner child within,” explained Ivanecky.

My goal was that people reflect more on their happiness. I think after you read my book you really get a sense that there’s no one right way to be happy in life and there’s no one right path.

Elizabeth Ivanecky

The Child in Us was published in December 2020 and is available on Amazon and through many local bookstores. The response so far has been very heartwarming and Ivanecky hopes that it encourages people to continue reflecting on their lives and their happiness.

“[Reflecting on happiness] allows you to experience joy more in your life and while you’re never going to completely avoid sadness or these negative moments, it’s just how you deal with these moments that really define you. I think when you also think about your happiness more part of that is thinking about how you cope with the negative in life which is also actually a big part of my books, is showing how people have coped with their unhappiness,” explained Ivanecky.

Ivanecky thinks her book might be a good read for students in particular. 

“I think in today’s day and age we just want things so fast and we think they come so quickly as well but even just thinking about my own life and all the people who I’ve interviewed, things take time. It takes hard work, dedication, passion, effort, all these things. It takes time for things to happen in your life, to achieve your goals and dreams. So I think this is a good read for students because it puts things in perspective for them so that they don’t feel like they need to get everything all at once. They don’t need to rush through life,” said Ivanecky.

It takes time for things to happen in your life, to achieve your goals and dreams. So I think this is a good read for students because it puts things in perspective for them so that they don’t feel like they need to get everything all at once. They don’t need to rush through life.

Elizabeth Ivanecky

More than that, she hopes that it will also remind readers to have hope.

“It’s always important to have hope and I think that’s always the tone of my book. It’s a tone of optimism and hopefulness, so I wanted to make sure the reader felt they can like they can handle whatever life throws at them. I think it’s good for students in that sense as well,” added Ivanecky.

Reflecting on our own happiness can give us direction in our lives as well as the strength to persevere in trying times. Books like Ivanecky’s The Child In Us offer insight into how others have found happiness and coped with unhappiness, helping us on our own journeys.

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