3.24.2014

When I Grow Up

There are many times throughout childhood and adulthood when you are asked the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" When you're really young you always have an answer [or twelve]. 

Policeman.
Ballerina.
Scientist.
Teacher.
Jockey.

As you grow older the answer to that question begins to elude you. 
Marine biologist. No, wait, a zoologist. Or maybe an archaeologist? Anthropology sounds really cool too. Or an author. Can I just be paid to travel to remote tropical islands and write?

What no one tells you as a child is that the answer to that question can take you decades to find the right answer to, if you are lucky enough to find that answer at all. I changed my mind frequently, especially while in college. My adoration for the social sciences led me to dive in to three different majors before finally just picking one. Because no matter which of the three I chose I still had no idea what the "real world" held for me post graduation. I still had no idea what I would do, who I would be.

It's taken me 29 years to get there but I've finally figured it out: I want to be happy. The people I have most looked up to throughout my life have one thing in common - they chose a path that made them happy. It didn't matter to them what others thought or what they were supposed to do. They followed their hearts. That's the kind of person I want to grow up to be. One who chooses to doggedly chase down my own happiness.

Last week Brent and I watched the documentary "Happy" on Netflix. Couple this with the joy of the arrival of our third child, my mom giving me a copy of Law of Attraction magazine all about happiness, Pharrell's song Happy all over the radio, and the stirrings of my heart over the past few months and BOOM! The perfect cocktail served by the Universe saying "Hey, pursue some happiness already!"

The thing about happiness though is that it can be tricky to nail down exactly what it is that makes YOU happy. From the day we are born we are barraged with messages of what we should want and who we should be, as well as those of what we shouldn't. All of that noise fills your head and can cloud over the things that would truly make you happy, especially if they shy away from the norm. Peer pressure begins as soon as you leave your home, whether it be for daycare or Kindergarten. Our young children are being told what is societally acceptable from much earlier than I realized. [I was shocked to learn that three year olds policed one another on what was acceptable when it came to accessories.] Shoulds completely overshadow the yearnings of your heart. Sometimes it can be a colossal archaeological dig to uncover what lies beneath.

I have spent more time than I would like to admit mired in my own misery. I spent years caught up in all the things I didn't and couldn't have because the path I was on wasn't headed in the right direction. And my head was too focused on what was missing. What I needed more than anything was a change in perspective. I began to start focusing on what I did have (gratitude) and to go after the little things I could make happen. We can't afford to move to a farm, but we can plant a huge vegetable garden and have a few chickens. I don't have hours a day to sit and read and write but I do have 45 minutes on the bus on my daily commute to do what I can. And I have my family and friends which I can never be grateful enough for.

Those are the things that really make me happy. Homesteading, words, and good people. Simple enough, but it took me a long time to figure that out. Those three things are what make my heart the lightest and so that's where I now try to focus my energy and small bits of free time. The small moments I am able to enjoy in those areas carry me through the other more mundane tasks of adulthood that we all know and love. 

Happiness is different for everyone. People have different passions. There's nothing l love more than the way someone's whole body lights up when they talk about something they love. Even if I have no interest in the actual subject I can't help but be drawn in to their joy and want to hear more. Happy can be contagious.

As an introvert those are the conversations I like to have, even with perfect strangers. I don't want to talk about the weather or sports. I want to talk about what makes your soul sing. What makes your heart soar. And why. Passion, happiness, and joy are contagious if you're open to catching them. 

I am far from having adulthood figured out, a fact that seems to leave my seven year old dumbfounded but I'm glad that I've at least figured out this one thing. I think that as long as I keep pursuing happiness, I'll be ok in this life.

[This week I'm going to start a new weekly series entitled "Happy". One happy moment or thing, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant, documented each week. Let me know if you want to participate!]

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