What is happiness?
Our assembly line education system tells us that happiness comes in the form of the “American Dream.” We go through all of the stages, hit all the mandatory points: school, college, grad school, internships, ladder, CEO, marriage, house, family. We are always moving forward, working our way to the ultimate end goal, our eyes on the prize, clawing our way up if we must, started from the bottom now we’re here.
And when you get “here,” is it everything you thought and imagined it to be?
Is it realistic to expect to choose one path by the time you’re in your teens and pursue it for the rest of your life? Does happiness only come in the form of achieving external goals and reaching socially mandated mileposts? Because that’s sure as hell what it feels like.
Then when you find a way of life that suits you but doesn’t suit society’s standards the pressure that results from living an atypical way of life can either force you to change your mind and go back to the “real world” or cause you to laugh it off as you continue on your merry way.
Life is not linear. It does not follow an assembly line structure. It is a beautiful series of ups and downs, twists and turns, a huge book full of blank pages yet to be written, to be filled with tales, adventures. Is adventure possible if you’re always prepared? If you always know what’s “supposed to” come next? If you’re climbing rung after rung on the ladder with the only goal of getting to the top?
I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I only knew what I was supposed to want to do. I studied education, therefore I was supposed to want to be a classroom teacher, and a classroom teacher alone. In my desperation to have a concrete answer to people’s incessant questions of “So, what’s next for you?” I frantically tried to figure something out, because what I really wanted to do was continue traveling, but that was associated with being a “wandering soul” (i.e. unproductive). In my compulsion to have a plan I lost touch with myself and my voice and ended up getting back onto the ladder, falling back into the assembly line mindset, and leaving behind a way of life that really worked quite well for me.
You can’t always have the answers. And you shouldn’t. Aren’t we all just trying to figure our lives out? Does anyone ever get to a point where they have it “all figured out”? If we are encouraged to be unique in our personalities and characters, why aren’t we also encouraged to be unique in the paths we choose for our lives and how and when we get there?
If you’re a compulsive planner like me though, figuring your shit out and letting the answers come to you isn’t the most appealing thing in the world. So combined with people constantly asking me what my plan was, was an additional internal pressure to have one immediately at the ready.
And that’s when I learned the truth: You cannot, no matter how hard you try, force your life’s vision to come to you. Just as the story of your life is a beautiful series of stained glass pieces put together, the vision for your life comes into being the same way. You won’t just wake up knowing what it is that you want to do or where you want to go next. The best thing that you can do is learn to enjoy what you have in the here and now, and trust that, as you continue gathering experiences in life, they will come together to form a clear and unique vision that is yours and yours alone.
Who would’ve known that during the depressing months of winter I would decide to relaunch my blog and start taking writing and photography a little more seriously? Who knew that as a result I would receive countless messages from readers thanking me for sharing and writing and that this would then inspire me to become a professional blogger and writer?
Oftentimes even the bigger picture becomes blurry. But as you move along day by day, writing the pages of your life one at a time, you end up being exactly where it is you need to be. It’s not about finding the answers right away or simply trying to be patient, it’s about learning to be, right here, right now, because this moment, this moment right now, could be the one that casts light on the vision of your life.
So now, for me, there is no pressure to have a concrete plan, to have those clear cut answers. My dream is to write and travel, to inspire and connect. Where that ends up taking me, I don’t know. Even now, knowing I want to end up back in Spain, people ask me if I will stay there permanently. And I can honestly tell them with a huge smile, that I don’t know, and that it’s OK, because my life’s vision goes beyond the limits of a concrete answer and I’m leaving it open to whatever adventures await me.