Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

What Do I Want?

on April 1, 2014

Happiness_Joey

What Do I Want?

What a question. What a provocative, dangerous, hopeful, angst-ridden question. A question that I don’t ask myself very often. Even as I have gone about the business of figuring out my life and my work over the last few years I still hesitate. What if the answer comes back “Not this”? What if the answer would require me to stop what I’m doing and to put all of my energy into something totally different? What would I do then?

Lately I’ve been experiencing some difficulties in my working life. These difficulties are not unexpected – or they shouldn’t be, anyway. There will always be bumps in the road, no matter what it is that you do. When it all calmed down I decided to ask myself the question: given this present turmoil, and the guarantee of future turmoil in my current line of work, “What do I want?” This is what I came up with:

I want to work with people I like and trust.

I want to write about things that are important to me.

I want to spend time with my family and friends.

I want to make enough money to not worry about paying the bills.

I want to enjoy my life.

I want to be a positive force in the world.

After I made this list I realized that I either already have everything I want or I am actively working to achieve it, and no amount of temporary insanity will change the path I’m on now. I know I can always do more – I can find new ways to spend time with the people I love, I can explore what it means to enjoy my life (which is not as easy as it may sound), and I can constantly pursue new ways of being a positive force, both big and small – but for the most part, I have everything on this list. I was surprised that it seemed so easily achievable, but then I remembered what I’ve been through to get here.

First, I had to lose a lot of what I thought I wanted in order to get to where I am now. Second, what I want has changed. I recently found a list of what I wanted that I had made not long after I was laid off. It was a list of professional goals, not personal ones, and the emphasis it placed on things outside of myself took me by surprise.

Is that what happens? If we don’t get what we think we want do we just change what we want to fit our circumstances? Is that a bad thing or a really smart thing?

I used to mark my happiness by the relative coolness of my job.  When I thought I didn’t have that anymore I had to reassess what made me happy. That’s when I realized (although I “knew” it) that you can’t get your happiness from temporary things. And jobs are temporary. People can be as well, so you have to be careful there. And money, while it undeniably makes life easier, does not make you happy.

When I look at what I used to want out of life – a high-status job, lots of money, exotic travel, and public recognition – I am struck by how differently I see my life now. Sure, I still get a little jealous when I hear about someone who seems to have some of the things I used to have (I will always want to travel), but I’ve learned not to compare my life to another person’s. There will always be someone who you look at and think “Wow, they’ve got it all!”, and there will always be someone who looks at you the same way. Nobody has it all. There is no such thing. We’re all on the same trip – we take different paths, but eventually we’re all going to wind up the same way, so there’s no sense in being envious of someone else. Nobody gets out alive, as they say.

Some people think that asking the question is selfish, that this life isn’t about what you want. I think it depends on how you look at it. Does “living right” require the sacrifice of my personal happiness? What’s wrong with wanting to be happy? If I’m happy, doesn’t it mean that I’m free to be a better person?

Someone told me once that happiness in this life isn’t a guarantee. Well, I think that’s a load of crap. What isn’t guaranteed is that you’ll have an easy life. There is no pass on tragedy or misfortune or loss. But if you can figure out how to be happy in spite of it, basically happy, then you’ve achieved something. I think it boils down to what you want. If you want permanent things, real things, then you have a much better chance of getting what you want, and therefore, being happy.

But be careful. Asking yourself what you want can lead you places you never thought you would go. If you ask, be prepared for the answer. If you don’t ask, you probably already know the answer is “Not this”. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Once you ask the question, the answer will haunt you until you do something about it. Believe me, I know.

************

Thanks for reading my blog!  If you want to know more about me and my journey, check out my book “Everyday is Saturday” on Kindle.  The book is part diary, part memoir, about the first year after I was laid off from my dream job.  I think it has something to say to anyone who is struggling with change.

Photo by Amanda Taylor Brooks

 

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