I clutch my sweater to my chest, close my eyes and take a deep breath.
Do I feel “joy”?
I mean, I like this sweater. But it doesn’t feel like hugging a puppy. This sweater is not as trendy as the Kon-Marie closet purge.
In addition to trying out the Marie Kondo method (which I love BTW), I’ve listened to audiobooks about living your best life, read articles detailing how to do what you love and putting your passion behind happiness.
Yes!! Preach! I’m a huge supporter of chasing dreams, happiness and unicorns. I don’t just chase. I run full throttle and tackle.
But there’s one thing these methods aren’t focusing on: the pursuit of happiness is hard.
We are hit from every direction with the concept that anything that doesn’t produce happiness should be cut from our lives. So when our dream job, dream family or dream life comes with a down side, we wonder “am I doing this wrong?”
When I first graduated from college, I packed up my bags and moved away from everything I knew for that first job that no one dreams of: low pay, crappy schedule and very little respect. But at least it was in a city where I knew literally and barely one person.
A few months in, I was ready to quit when a middle-aged co-worker made up a rumor that I stole some guy’s paycheck out of his desk (which by the way is pretty impossible with direct deposit). The environment was so toxic, walking up to the front door daily felt like a death march.
I was home for a visit and probably mentioned that I was ready to give up, when my grandma looked me in the eye and gestured for me to come closer with one arthritic finger.
“Listen,” she told me square in the eye, “your grandfather got shipped out to Texas two weeks after we were married…”
I had heard this story before. But as she went on, I realized, I hadn’t heard this story.
She told me about how my grandpa had to go for basic training as one of the first navigators in WWII. She got into a car (before highways) and traveled from Cleveland to Texas to follow him.
She found a cheap place to stay and every day, would wake up and get on a bus to go to the base. She would wait. At some point, they got to see each other for 20 minutes. Then she waited for that bus again and traveled back.
She told me how she got homesick and car sick and sick thinking about how her new husband was headed to war.
Just when she was about to give up and head home, the lady who owned the place she was staying said to her, “Honey, you’re not happy here, but you’re not going to be happy at home.”
When she retold that line, she cocked her head down as if to punctuate the point.
I could interpret as I wanted, she wasn’t telling me what to do. But she was telling me one of the most important lessons of life.
Life is hard. It’s hard in a million different ways. I just had to choose which hard was going to make me happiest.
I chose to stay at my job. And I quickly got a new and better one. I stuck it out and worked my way up, worked my way home and worked through marriage, pregnancies and newborns.
I love what I do. That’s why I don’t think twice about working basically overnight. And I also love my children…another reason why I work overnight. I can squeeze in both. But that doesn’t mean by Tuesday I’m not mindlessly staring out the window eating Cheerios wondering if I’m going to make it to the Friday finish line.
Every friend of mine who decided to leave the work force to raise their babes is just as exhausted and time crunched. Conversation always leads to a mention of how they “gave up a piece of themselves”… but I know they love every second of being with their littles.
Whether it’s a diet cutting out food or ending a toxic relationship, we choose one path or another to try and make our lives happier. We aren’t making these choices to make our lives easier.
There’s a Tom Hanks line from my favorite movie, A League of Their Own. It’s when Dottie Henson decides she’s going to go home with her husband and miss the playoffs because it just got “too hard.” Jimmy Dugan looks at her and says “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
Chose your “hard” based on love. Chose it based on joy. And realize, even though that grass might seem greener every once in a while, you’re right where you’re meant to be.