What makes you happy? That’s a pretty heavy question! Right now, I’d have to say I’m happy right here; sitting at my desk, looking at the ocean and writing, my cats are playing around my feet [must keep an eye on that – they’ve decided chewing on toes is a fun thing to do]. I’m not sure if that makes me a hermit or not but if it does, at least I’m a happy hermit!
But what would make me happier – what will make me happy in the long run?… that’s the real question. Let’s investigate a little on what makes happiness; what really makes us feel like we have reached that place where life just really couldn’t get any better.
When I was younger – and by younger I mean about a year ago – I was convinced that I needed many material things to be happy: a fancy car [I was really into Aston Martins], a big house, and a room for my shoes. Okay, well I may not be giving up my shoe room quite yet… but I’ve come to realize that I don’t need all those things to be happy.
If you value those sorts of things above other things, then yes, maybe that’s what you need to be happy. Maybe you need a shoe room to be happy, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it’s not exactly healthy if the only thing will make you truly happy is a room full of footwear, but I won’t condemn you if that’s your reality.
My “reality” has been changing a lot recently. I am wary about using reality here, because it’s not something that I’m living quite yet, but it’s where I am headed – I guess it would be my “future reality”. The island that I live on has, over time, exposed me to some really interesting societal differences – and when I say differences, I mean things that are different from other places I’ve been. I’ve experienced a way of life that encompasses community before capital, people before promotion. The people here don’t need fancy cars, or multimillion dollar apartments, and their morning Starbucks; they have their beat up Volvos, and their six hundred square foot cottages, and their ferry coffee on the way to the Victoria Costco once a month.
I’m not saying that the “city” or “rich capitalist” stereotype is necessarily a bad one – I wouldn’t mind wearing Armani suits to work, and I really do love a good chai latte once and a while [only once and a while, because I have been genetically programmed to store any extra calories in my hips] – I’m only entertaining a different stereotype. One that values a community, and doesn’t care whether you wear rubber boots to work, as long as you get the job done.
It’s only been in the last few years since spending more time here, and especially in the last week since moving here [and getting a job here – yay!], that I’ve really started to see how life can be satisfying in so many ways other than having material things. No I don’t picture my ideal lifestyle as a bohemian, but I’ve developed, in some ways, a more realistic idea of happiness for what I really want to do with my life.
I suppose realistic is the wrong word for it. Realistic implies that I couldn’t get a job working for a major corporation if I wanted to. No… I’d say the right word is suitable. What I see making me happy is days sitting around writing, loving my cats, and tending to my sheep. Yes, I am going to have a sheep farm. Sounds just about perfect… and why is that? Because that’s what I’ve decided I want in my life – for now at least. My plans change frequently, but I suppose as I actually start life as a moderate grownup things start to become more concrete, and choosing what I want life to be like doesn’t seem so far fetched.
It’s not that I’ve given up on the dream of having a fancy car, or an exposed brick apartment in Tribeca, it’s that I just don’t want those things anymore. I’ve realized those aren’t the things that are going to make me happiest in life. My new plans of hippidom are hardly any more realistic than my former plans of high powered business. I’m starting to think that maybe they’re even more unrealistic – but it’s what I want to do. A goal to have a successful sheep farm/journalism career is still a goal – even if you can make sweaters out of the end result [stocks don’t keep you warm in the winter, just saying].
A friend of mine sent me a little video making fun of the dreamer attitude that many young journalists have [I’m going to get my MJ from Columbia and get a job working for the New York Times right out of grad school], and in a way I agree that it’s important to have realistic expectations for life; but I think it’s more important to have dreams and aspirations – after all, couldn’t dream just be a longer word for goal? I’d like to think that if being a journalist for the New York Times is what would make me happiest in life I would be able to have that goal and have the support of people around me to help me achieve it.
My parents often scoff at my daydreaming attitude regarding my future. I want to go to Berkeley for journalism, then get a job working for a major publication that allows me to travel, write, and meet lots of different people from different places. What I think is most important is recognizing what you need to be happy, and going for it.
So what makes you happy [or what do you think will make you happy in the future – for those of us still deciding on that sort of thing]? Is it a fast paced life, full of exciting new business opportunities and breakfast meetings? Or is it a simpler life, full of contented strolls through the sheep farm while thoughts for your next story start to blossom? I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this question – and if you think there is, I think you should consider being a little less judgey, because what makes people happy is, well, what makes people happy; and who are we to decide what makes other people tick…?
Exactly. Dreaming is where every good idea starts. You’ve got to dream something up before you can do it. So go for it! Dream a little, then go after whatever is going to make you happy!