From an early age, I remember being told I enjoyed too many different things, that I was just a little *too* happy, that it didn’t make sense.
Like when I moved to a new school in ninth grade, and I thought I might make friends by smiling at people, but on the first day of school the girl across from me in class shot me back a disgusted look. “What?” she sneered, tossing her jet black hair back in front of her face. Taken aback, I shifted in my seat and wondered what I’d done wrong. About a month ago, I volunteered for a film festival and managed to get a similar, though slightly less obvious, reaction from a very hip young lady who was also volunteering, and I remain as shocked today as I was in high school by such responses. Okay, a little less surprised, but still stubbornly clinging to my belief that life should be all Anne-of-Green-Gables-neighborly-and-genuine.
I vividly recall a birthday card from a friend in high school that read,
“To the only person I know who can listen to Shania Twain and ACDC back to back and enjoy them equally.”
I also recall my high school boyfriend shaking his head at me and rolling his eyes when I told him that maybe I would like to be a flight attendant, so I could travel the world and expand my horizons. “When did you decide that, this morning?” And it was true. I had decided that after a conversation in first period with a classmate whose mother was one.
After exploring for a few years after highschool, I finally went to college, (which I chose on the recommendation of a dear, wild card of a soul whom I met when I was 19, because he said it was the most beautiful place he had ever been). Once there, which, by the way, turned out to be the most beautiful place I had ever been, I finally settled on Creative Writing as a major, mostly because it meant I could explore practically any subject I wanted to, as long as I could find a way to share that experience with words.
Along the way, I’ve often felt confused about my seeming lack of distinct and long-term goals, at least of the kind that other people seemed to have, and that we’re taught we should have. I’ve considered and dabbled in many paths: interior designer, nutritionist, yoga teacher, elementary school teacher, researcher, librarian, journalist… the list goes on.
But the only goal I’ve ever managed to sustain has been seeking health and happiness. This is not to say I don’t seek meaningful work, because it’s actually one of my great life challenges to remain committed to any job I don’t find meaningful. But I see work as just a piece of the great puzzle, not something to build my life around.
I’ve been thinking about this recently, probably because big life changes usually stir things up. This summer, my love and I moved to a very small beach town, exclusively and unapologetically because we just wanted to. Not because we found that “next step” career job or because we needed to get away from something else, but because we wanted to live by the sea. And specifically, this town felt right to us.
I’ve found myself defending the decision sometimes, even to myself, and I’d like to reaffirm my belief, perhaps mostly for myself, that
HEALTH AND HAPPINESS,
ALSO KNOW AS QUALITY OF LIFE,
IS A GREAT AND WORTHY GOAL.
Is it also important to find meaningful work throughout this journey? Absolutely. But for me, never at the expense of living a happy life. What is life without spending time with loved ones and on things that make you feel inspired and free?
There is an old fable you may have heard that always brings a smile to my face and sums up feelings rather nicely: (different versions are all over the internet, but I found this one here)
An American tourist was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.
Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The tourist complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”
The tourist then asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”
The Mexican said, “With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”
The tourist then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life.”
The tourist scoffed, ” I can help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you could run your ever-expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
The tourist replied, “15 to 20 years.”
“But what then?” asked the Mexican.
The tourist laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”
The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”