Recently, a fellow group member asked this question:
“Raise your hand if you’re 30 (or in your 30s) and not yet in your right career, financially unstable, or generally feeling like you haven’t found the right track yet for where you wanna go and who you’re supposed to be? I felt like my 20s would guide me through this path and land me right where I wanted by 30. Instead I feel like a hot mess.”
I have been thinking a lot about this lately, so I left a pretty hefty response. Hefty enough to turn it into a blog post. Efficient, right?
Here was my answer:
I don’t know much, but I am currently on a journey of discovering some things in this area. I mean, I thought I had found my dream starting a nonprofit and working in permaculture. Then walls started crumbling in, I learned that running a nonprofit is far from fun or enjoyable at all, and I changed and evolved and permaculture isn’t even that interesting to me anymore. We all change and evolve.
I have a dear friend who just recently resigned from her general physician career to be with her family more and put her energy into her passion of feeding hungry people. The way she talks about it, I feel a little defensiveness, like she’s worried I’m going to judge her for making that decision. People have said things to her that make her feel like a quitter. But the reality is that people evolve. A career as a physician seems to our society like a stable, respectable, well-paying career, and that would mean your life is together and you’re happy. Well, yeah, but it’s an extremely difficult career as well, and not everyone that goes through the hell of medical school and residency is going to want to stay in that career forever, even if it was hell to get there. But OMG she is such an amazing person and she excels at whatever she puts her energy into because she has this soul that’s like a flower and fire at the same time.
What are you feeling like you need to accomplish? If you’re lucky enough to have time to think before dying: what will you contemplate? I feel like somewhere along the lines, some people (who could benefit from it financially) started telling us that we need to have these super-fulfilling careers which will then make us happy. It’s similar to the sentiment that money will make us happy or things will make us happy. We know those last two suggestions are flat-out wrong. Attachment to these desires and things cause suffering, not happiness. The more money/power/stuff you have, the more you want. There will never be a point at which something external will make us happy. Happiness HAS to come within. The same applies to your job, career, or whatever method you chose to survive.
I wrote this post a couple years ago about an awesome man who retired from a maintenance position at a hotel in the Black Hills. He didn’t like his job; he did it for the money. But after he retired, he got pretty bored and went back to that same position. Guess how he feels about that job now.
Don’t get me wrong, being financially stable (not in debt and can afford basic necessities of life like food and shelter) is a good thing to have, and it can be hard to find happiness within when we are struggling to survive or if we have really difficult surroundings (like a partner who ignores you or abuses you). But there are people who have found happiness even while struggling. For example, traveling Buddhist monks never know when their next meal will be given to them. There are even people who have never seen any kind of money (or cars or designer bags or shoes), and they are the happiest people you will ever see. Check out the documentary about the pygmies in Africa on Netflix as an example.
Yesterday morning I had this need to be alone and think. For whatever reason I decided to go downtown and just wander and look and think. I’d see things that look cool and then ask, “would this actually make me happy?” Of course the answer was always no. I went in to Zandbroz and looked at all the books, hoping to find one about happiness or philosophy or something that would turn on the light bulb, but I found nothing. Because I knew I am already on my way to the light switch.
I looked at different people. I saw a woman sitting on her front stoop crying and felt her raw emotion. I saw a man messing with his seed spreader. I saw women who had older clothes and no make-up on walking on the bike trails and enjoying life. I saw women all made up and in the latest, most fashionable clothes looking at the expensive clothes in the boutiques. I saw men in guard uniforms walking into the burger and beer shop. I saw a homeless man yelling at the woman he was with to “Hurry the hell up” as he dropped disposable food packaging in the parking lot and walked away from it while the woman proceeded into the library saying, “Don’t be mean to me.”
On the way home I just thought about how amazing my life is. Even if I don’t have a successful career. Even if my nonprofit is struggling to keep its head above water. Even if I’ve put more on my plate than I should have. Words started falling out of my lips, out loud, “I don’t need to have, or be, or do anything to be happy.” I just kept repeating it, and the more I said it, the better I felt. Saying those words, I decided I might not proceed with the physical trainer/health coach path I had started studying for. I decided that I was no longer going to live in fear that some day I would need to get a job and I would have to work some job I would hate. I realized there would be many jobs I could work and I would really like them. I’d love to be a server again someday! It’s a really fun job! I always thought it’d be really fun to be a barista too. Who cares if it’s not some highly-respected, highly-paid career. I can always do the things I love outside of my job. They don’t have to BE my job. Right now, my job is being the best mom and wife I can be. And I am trying to forgive myself for letting fears add more and more responsibilities to my plate, taking time away from this PERFECT freaking life I already had. All I had to do was look inside and find the happiness that was already there.