Life changes quickly. It only takes one person to make a decision and lives change. Today I made a decision not to attend a second interview for a job. For many people, the reason for this is confusing. I should be grateful for what I’ve been offered; a chance to work in a firm in a finance-based role on a good salary. I certainly need a job (apparently there aren’t many around) so the principle of turning down potential employment seems stupid.
The truth is that it is stupid. If I wanted financial security, employment security or a chance of reducing the strain that comes with being unemployed then I should have aimed for this job. But that isn’t what I want. I want to be happy. These things are not the same.
Happiness is a strange thing. On the one hand it seems an elusive principle that is hard to pin down or aim for. Many people strive to be happy by aspiring to greater things. There is a state of mind that says that happiness is something to aim for, that you are working now for happiness later. Some people still believe happiness comes with wealth.
On the other hand, it is something definitive that describes one single moment in a person’s life. “I was happy when my team won”. “I was happy when my son was born”. “My wedding day was the happiest day of my life”. These are moderately common expressions of happiness. How often do you hear someone say simply, “I am happy”?
Unhappiness tends to be more noticeable in our everyday life; it is much harder to realise when we are happy. Often it is not until something changes that we realise what we’ve been missing. There is a very real danger that we can live life always wanting more whilst never appreciating what we’ve already got.
I knew I was unhappy studying economics at university, and when I think back over my life I have usually been happiest when being creative. It’s what I love to do. So why, then, would I sacrifice potentially doing a job I love for one that brings different kinds of benefits and rewards? I may be lucky enough to get a job that I love, but at the very, very least I’m going to get a job that makes me happy. I don’t care how much it pays. I don’t care what it’s doing. I don’t care whether it’s what other people expect me to do. I care that life’s too short, and if you don’t take charge of your own destiny then you can’t complain when it lands you somewhere you don’t want to be.
In Toronto there is an amazing chain of restaurants whose staff carry sayings around on their t-shirts. “No regrets just lessons learned” was one that stuck in my memory. That, and a really great burger. It was really yummy. The other thing that comes to mind is a cheesy pop song called “The Climb”.
Ain’t about how fast I get there. Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side. It’s the climb.
I’m not one for cheesy pop songs so I’ll move on. My point is that life is a journey, but it ain’t about the destination. It’s about how you get there. There’s no point in shouting at yourself because you’ve taken a wrong road, just change your route. Everyone has places they’d like to visit, and a destination they’d like to head to, but the way you get there is completely flexible and should not be mapped out mile for mile. It can’t be. There will be roadworks. You will be diverted.
As much fun as it would be, I can’t sit here and preach about how everyone should be happy no matter what situation they’re in. It would be hypocritical, because right now I’m not happy. I haven’t been for a while. But I should be. Happiness is a state of mind. You can influence it. Don’t let the world dictate how happy you are, it already has enough fun throwing obstacles in your way. Take charge of who you are and how you feel. Being master of your own destiny does not mean having the power to define your future, it means having the power to face the random challenges life throws at you. Be yourself, and be it to the best of your ability.
There is always someone worse off who is happier than you.