The pursuit of happiness. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot over the last year. Going after what makes us happy. Living the life we’ve always imagined for ourselves. It takes courage to be happy. From what I’ve witnessed, courage is required in two scenarios.
1. It takes courage to be totally honest with yourself and those who expect things of you.
Expect. Expectations. Those are big words, heavy words. It’s all fine and good when what you do is what is expected of you, but what happens when what you want is not what other people want for you?
You can be brave and do what you want anyway, either showing those that expect things of you that you were right all along, that this was your path OR you can do what “they” expect of you. Maybe it makes you happy, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you know it won’t make you happy, but you do it anyway because “they” love you and you love them, etc. If you end up being happy, great, but what happens when you’re not happy? Well, what I’ve seen is — you grow more unhappy. You are asked to be something that in your heart of hearts, you are not.
For example, my mother wanted me to be a lawyer. Nope. I could never be a lawyer and I’ve always known that about myself. I don’t have the discipline for that kind of study, but more importantly, I don’t have the passion. If I had passion for lawyering, maybe I would have the discipline, but I don’t and I’ve known this. Being a lawyer was never a blip on my radar screen. My mom, to this day, sometimes says over the phone, “I always thought you’d make a good lawyer.” And I always say, “I never wanted to be a lawyer. It wouldn’t have made me happy.” And she grumbles, but then we move on to the next topic, which is usually… did you brush your hair? (family joke)
Other people though, would have become lawyers. And other people, after becoming lawyers are unhappy. Even though they did what their mothers (mother is now the euphemism for “those that expect things of you” generally, not specifically) told them to do, they are unhappy. And this is hard because how do you not be lawyer after being trained and after knowing it’s what will make mother happy?
I tell you what you have to do. You have to upset mother. You have to. You have to be honest with yourself and your mother. And you have to say, “Ma, I don’t want to do this. I know YOU want me to this, but I don’t want to do this. It doesn’t make me happy.” And those three sentences will not be easy, whoever your ma is.
Let me tell you what happens when you don’t upset your mother. You grow more upset with yourself. I’ve seen people I love spin their wheels because they’ve done what their mother told them to do, but not what they wanted to do. They TRY doing what mother expects of them, but it never fits quite right and they don’t excel (because it isn’t their passion) and they feel like a failure and they grow more unhappy.
To be happy, you must do what you know is right for you, no matter what mother says. And that takes courage. That takes courage especially when it’s totally counter to what mother would want for you. Do it anyway. Upset your mother. Be happy.
2. It takes courage to accept that happiness, maybe doesn’t look the way you thought it would.
Okay, happiness is multi-faceted. You can be happy with your job, but unhappy with your lack of boyfriend… because you hang out with a bunch of lesbians, work for a non-profit in super liberal Boston and don’t meet any men, like my old situation.
You can be happy with your boyfriend, but unhappy with your job. You can be happy where you live, but unhappy with distance it is from your family. You can be happy with a lot of things and still be unhappy with other things.
And their weight is different. For some people, it’s really important that they be happy with their family and they don’t care too much about their job. For some people, it’s really important that they be happy with their job, they don’t care too much where they live.
When I was growing up and imagining my 25 year-old self (because that’s the age I self-identified as “old” lol), I imagined myself happy, with a good job, a fancy schmancy car and a really great suit. Now, that I’ve grown up some, that idea of what happiness looks like has changed. I have a great job, I have a good car, but it isn’t mine, it’s my company’s and I hate hate hate wearing suits.
In the previous section where we talked about mother, we were talking about choosing. Choosing your path. But what if you are ready to choose a path but there is no opportunity? That is a different kind of unhappiness all together.
I think this might be especially relevant now because the job market is tough. But what if you have a good job, but it’s not your passion? You don’t come to work every day skipping and singing (um, who does?) and you can’t find the *perfect* fit. I think that until you can find the perfect fit, you have to realize that maybe happiness doesn’t look like what you thought it would pre-25 year-old self.
In high school, we had this idea of what happiness was. Then we graduated, went to school or didn’t go to school, got jobs and started living adult lives. And I think some people got a job that wasn’t their dream job. And is it ideal? No. But do they live with it until another opportunity presents itself? Yes. Happiness evolves.
They find happiness in the other parts of their life. I’ve lived in some really great cities: Houston, Boston, DC, Chicago. Now, I live in Indianapolis. Not my dream. But my job is great, so I accept that for the time being, I’m a Hoosier.
Did I expect that I would love where I lived (and therefore be happy), when I was younger-er? Yes. Do I love where I live now? No. Am I happy? Yes.
The difference between these two situations is control. In the first, with your mother, you decide. You decide to do what you mother has told you to do or not. You decide to try what your mother wants you to try or not.
In this second situation, you want to choose, but have nothing to choose from. But while your choices are limited, you can choose to distribute weight differently. You can choose to find happiness elsewhere and you can choose to keep looking for the opportunity. Right? When I was living in the afore-mentioned great cities, living in a great city was really important to me. Now that I live in not my ideal city, I’ve changed what happiness means to me and now, I am happy.
I may be oversimplifying it all, this is just what I’ve witnessed in my own young life (because 25 isn’t old, and neither is 28!), but I think there’s something to it all.
In summation… happiness is health. You have the right to choose. Be honest. Be courageous. Upset your mother. Be happy. :)