What does it take to be happy? Is happiness only found in happy endings? Or can it be found on the way to the end?
I often wish I could be fifteen again. Not because I have an unhealthy obsession with regaining lost youth, but because that seems to be the age when I was the closest to knowing everything. The world was so much easier to figure out. My biggest problem was deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up. The options were rock star, professional racing driver, shipwreck diver, pilot, graphic artist, writer, traveling philosopher on a motorcycle, cartoonist, pro baseball player, or architect. I remember thinking at one time that I could probably try them all. But since being a rock star is the most difficult, I should probably get started on that first and do the other stuff later.
And then, in college, I was introduced to something that would have a profound effect on all my thinking. It would at once simply the world and make it infinitely more complicated. It was...philosophy.
Studying philosophy helped me to discover a lot of things about myself, including getting abetter handle on what it is that makes me happy. The real problem -- which took some time to uncover -- was that I didn't really want to BE any of those things I had thought of at fifteen. I just liked DOING all those things. They weren't career pursuits; they were passions. And passions are what make you happy.
We seem to be living in an age when people seem to be giving up the pursuit of their passions far too early. "I'm never going to make it as a writer," I hear friends say. "So why should I keep doing it." But when you ask them what they would rather do, they can only say that they will do something that makes them happy. Hmm. Well, if WRITING doesn't make them happy, then why were they doing it? The short answer is that they were pursuing something that didn't make them happy. My friends weren't in love with writing; they were in love with being a writer.
I was lucky. My dad was a racer and I learned from an early age that racing was a lot more than just driving, which was the fun part. You worked all week and went to the tracks on weekend. You broke stuff, came home and fixed it, and went back to the tracks to break it again. It was a lot of work. A lot of fun, but a lot of work. I learned that I didn't want to do that for a living. But I still do it when I get the chance.
When I first started earning a real paycheck I took flying lessons and learned to fly. Loved it. Still do. But I didn't want to become a pilot. A good friend of mine did, but he's not happy.
I think we all, at one time or another, pursue things that we think will make us happy. Sometimes we're right. And sometimes we're wrong. And each time we make that discovery and we think we have failed at becoming happy, we need to remind ourselves that we've only succeeded in finding one more thing that DOESN'T make us happy. It helps, a little. I can't say that I'm an expert on happiness, but I'm happy.
The beauty of a fairy tale ending is that it comes at the end of a long and troubling story. And there's no way of knowing how long the story is until you have read it all. Don't close the book until you've read the whole story!