I have wanted to write this post for some time now. I feared three problems – which were: I did not know where I wanted to take this, what point I wanted to make (if any) or how to bring it to a nice thought-provoking end. Thing is, I still don’t know any of this; however, I have decided to not let these difficulties stop me any longer. So I am going to take a stab at this and see how it turns out. (Fingers crossed with a shot of vodka courage!)
For a long time now I have been thinking about life and more specifically, being happy in life. I don’t know if these thoughts are due to a rising maturity level on the age and emotional fronts, gaining a little bit of wisdom (hopefully) or because, being that I consider myself to be a late-bloomer, I finally feel more like the kind of grown-up I always thought adults were. But my biggest question is this – how many people, when they reach their deathbeds, are really and truly happy with the lives they lead? And for this post, I am only thinking of people who may know that death is knocking on their doors, and they may have some time to reflect upon their lives. People who are suddenly overcome with death and don’t have this time of reflection, for the sake of not muddying the waters of this post, I am going to respectfully disregard.
A couple of years ago, one of our close friends introduced us to a documentary about an extended family living in the hills of Virginia; I think the name of it was “The family name of White County.” Or it could be “The Whites of _____ County.” By this time I have long forgotten the family name or county. But the documentary filmed this family over an extended period of time trying to capture the essence of them and understand their way of life. This family was dirt poor; had nothing, came from nothing and probably would leave with nothing but this documentary as any kind of legacy. Their homes were run-down shacks for the most part; probably more than half their cars were beyond any use to a junk yard, and there is no telling if many of them had a high school education. I only watched about 30 minutes of footage because I could not stomach it. I do not think I am ‘high and mighty’ or better than them; but the whole time I watched that short piece of footage, I was thinking something along the lines of ‘how can they live like that?; is this really how they want to live their lives; and do any of them want to better themselves or have a real fighting chance of making something of themselves?’ I was incredibly disturbed by their way of life and how they survived. I could not comprehend how they could live as they did, and, seemingly in my mind, that possibly no one tried to break the horrific, hopeless, utterly miserable cycle of not becoming a productive, contributing member of society, their family or even to themselves. But in the end, was that kind of lifestyle they most wanted out of life? Did they not know they could hope for better? Did they even want better?
And then I see people who try multiple times to find real true love – their one and only. For these, do they ultimately not mind the not-so-good times/years, heart ache and bad relationships (assuming they had some of those) once they do find the right person – the person with whom they love spending the rest of their lives? Do they see those upsetting/frustrating/hurtful times as the path they had to take to find their soul-mate? To not only learn what kind of person they are, but to learn the type of person they want to be with for better or worse, forsaking all others? Did someone like, for example, Elizabeth Taylor find some kind of pleasure with her first 7 husbands; were there good times to be had by her with them? Did she find some happiness with them?
Then sometimes I look at people on whom great misfortune and terrible fate has befallen. The people who are homeless or may be on the verge of becoming homeless. There are probably numerous reasons people find themselves in these situations, and for now I am not going to speculate because I cannot begin to comprehend what they are struggling against and experiencing. But in the end, do they have any happy, wonderful memories to cling to; any hope to hold dear or any times to recall having something to live for?
What about people who seemingly have it all? Those with plenty of money to burn, prestige, and luxuries beyond compare? If they are missing true love and the heart-filling joy that brings, do they feel a hole in their hearts? Can they say unequivocally that they are happy and joyful? I know the saying quite well – “money doesn’t buy happiness,” – but I am sure these people try incredibly hard hundreds of times. But in the end, after constantly worrying about getting more/keeping their money, trying to fill an aching void with stuff, do they know or seek the one thing that cannot be purchased by money that may make them whole and wholly at peace? *For this I am entirely speculating. I in no way know what this lifestyle would be like. ;-)
Then you have to consider the ones who accept great career opportunities, some of which may require them to move. The move may be only a few dozen miles or it might be a couple thousand. What about them? Are they moving to place where they can be happy and less stressed, maybe even no longer miserable? What about those that may have been at a job for a short period of time and found themselves to be unhappy and dispirited? What if they were stressing and struggling, trying to make certain goals and numbers just to ensure a larger commission? And then, for these particular people, a tremendous opportunity came along that would remove the stress and need to work for commission and they took it, which ultimately gives them a better quality of life? If they did not take this great opportunity, would they regret it for the rest of their lives? Some I know would say unequivocally and emphatically YES.
Where would one be if one did not open the door, at least sometimes, when opportunity knocks? How far would one fall down the rabbit hole before surfacing for air and life? Not just a life, but a happy one? Yes, I know that I am using ‘happy’ many times in this post, but isn’t that what life is supposed to be about? There is so much to this world, countless things to learn and experience and a plethora of people to meet; I feel these could add so much value to one’s life.
People find happiness through different means. For some that means living a life to serve others; for some that means raising a family; for some that means traveling the world and learning about different cultures; for some that means having a career to be proud of; or even a combination of all or some of the above. And the list goes on and on and on.
One thing I believe ultimately is that you have to live your life in a way you can be happy with. I will not use the now defunct/sarcastic phrase “YOLO”. But its true, original meaning I think still applies. My belief is ‘you only get one shot on this merry-go-round so you better make it count.’ There might be some people who feel they have to live a life trying desperately, in maybe a financially idiotic way, trying to please others and appease someone else’s sense of ‘well I think this is how you should live’ attitude. But why??? Why try to live up to someone else’s standards that may go against your core values/beliefs or make you live a life that is dissatisfying and not genuine to yourself and your beliefs? At this stage in my life, I don’t think one should live up to someone else’s philosophy. Just because something works for them, doesn’t mean it works for you. (Side note of appeal – if you are in a relationship, then you must of course listen to that person, value them and their opinions/beliefs, respect them and try to do what is right for both of you and learn the art of compromise. Relationships are not a one-way street.)
I don’t want to live a life and then when I get to be 100yo (wishful thinking) think ‘I wish I had done more.’ I feel like I am pretty well on the path to not feeling that way. I have done things I have longed to do and hopefully with more time, I will fulfill more of my goals. This is probably a statement that may be upsetting to others, but I don’t think one should feel bad for taking an opportunity that moves them away from family or friends. This goes back to my belief of ‘doing what is best for you, doing what makes you happy and not closing doors on opportunities just because it might upset people.’
I recently bought and displayed a small flag that hangs below our mail box that perfectly and succinctly sums up what I am saying here. It simple reads “Enjoy life.”
**I don’t know if this will encourage or upset people, but I feel much better getting off my chest and putting it out there. At the very least, I hope for understanding.**
Today’s pun: Did you hear about the ATM with money problems? It was having withdrawals. ;-)