As we grow up we are taught many things. Through our parents, friends, relatives, and schooling we learn many necessary skills and requisite knowledge in theory to prepare us for adulthood. But at least one critical skill that I had to learn for myself is how to find happiness. Well, that can be a very tricky thing to do especially if you don't even know what happiness means. Personally, for a very long time I believed that happiness was universally achieved when you had a job, a house, a family, a car, etc... and for many, that is a happy life. Even just one or two of those things could change someone's life for the better and bring them much happiness. All of those things combined could absolutely provide a happy and comfortable life until the end of your days.
But that doesn't mean that is the only path to happiness, and for many that life may be unattainable. Does that mean that people without those things are unhappy? Potentially. But it could also mean that they have a different definition of happiness than I do. No one person can define a universal definition of happiness. For some it might mean making lots of money to buy nice things and go on expensive vacations. For others it might mean living in a small home, working on a farm and creating their own wealth. Yet others might find their happiness somewhere in-between.
Throughout my adventures in highschool and college, my definition of happiness remained constant. Go to school to get a degree, then find a job, get a house, start a family, and live happily ever after. It wasn't until I started working that I really started to understand what all of those things meant and some of the unseen stresses that can accompany them.
I have worked hard in my life to strive for my initial definition of happiness and I have been fortunate to have had the opportunities to achieve those things. At the time of this writing, I have a stable well-paying job, a house, a beautiful & healthy family, and a car. I make an effort each day to remember how far I have come and to appreciate all of the nice things that I have. But now that I have these things, does that mean I am happy?
At the risk of sounding like an undeserving whiner - Yes, but also no.
I've had a lot of time to think about this over the past several years spent commuting to and from work and school. Some quick math tells me I've spent close to 2000 hours in my car over the past 4 years of working not even including the commute time spent going to school. This is not a number that makes me happy, in fact as you might imagine it does quite the opposite. Sure there may be other options such as taking the bus, carpooling, or finding a job closer to home but as with all things, each of those options comes with their own ups and downs.
I am incredibly appreciative of the things that I have and the lifestyle that it has afforded me and my family, but admittedly I could be happier. As I've grown, matured, and learned more about myself and the world around me my definition of happiness has grown and matured as well. Happiness to me now is not just having a well paying job, but being able to work on things that interest me and challenge me to keep learning and growing. Happiness means doing things that I am passionate about and helping others. Happiness means spending as much time as possible with my wife and young children because I will never get the chance to see them grow up a second time.
As I approach my 30th year on this earth I hope that my life has only just begun. I hope in the years to come I am able to bring happiness to those around me and help them find their own path to happiness. If I could offer any words from the bits of wisdom I have gained throughout my life, it would be that you shouldn't wait to pursue the things that might make your life better. A small change now can snowball into something profound before you know it. For me one of those small changes was to stop being so critical of everything that I do and realize that my work may not be as bad as I think it is. You will never know unless you try, and I truly hope you do at least try.
May each of you find your own path to happiness and may it not be fleeting once found.