When I was very little, I used to look at the adults rushing about me. They mostly wore the same few expressions and acted similarly—their brows were knit in tight frowns, intermittent sighs would escape their lips, and almost always, they had this vacant expression in their eyes suggesting they wanted neither to be where they were, nor to be doing what they were doing. Looking at them, I’d wonder about the places they were so anxious to get to, or the super urgent things they had to get done before they could lighten up. I never got the answers or found out if they did in fact feel happier afterwards, but even then, being about five or six, I thought about why happiness needed to wait.
“I’d be happy as soon as…”
“Once I do X, I’d finally be able to…”
“I just need to take care of Y before I can even think of …”
Any of these sound familiar? We’ve heard people say these, or maybe we ourselves are sold on the whole idea that the pursuit of happiness and fulfilment is secondary to the practical demands of daily life.
When I was in my 20s, I thought I’d be happy once I met Mr Right, had 2 kids, a dog, and house with a white picket fence. But then I saw that my own mother had all that (+me as a bonus 3rd kid), yet she was exactly one of those harried, anxious adults who subscribed to the “I’ll only start thinking of myself in about 10 years/as soon as my kids are teenagers” ethos. And “happy” isn’t how I’d describe that period of her life.
Now in my 30s, with a loving hubby, two bouncy kids, and a stable job, I catch myself still waiting. Still hanging around for that elusive opportunity to pursue the sort of happiness that brings deep joy and fuels a tired, sometimes broken, spirit. So with dogged determination, I write, sing, read, and try to brush up on my college French.
But over time, I’ve come to see where my mother was coming from. The sheer commitment and effort required to keep up with the demands of full-time work as well as parenting two children (and coaching one of them in schoolwork) is exhausting enough on their own—and I’m beginning to realize that what I need isn’t more me-time to write/sing/learn French, but to regroup.
Enter “change”. You know how you spend years wishing and praying for change to happen, only to be freaked out when petition starts to morph into possibility? As it turns out, I’m on the cusp of closing a door to what’s safe and comfortable, and opening a window to something entirely new and uncertain.
So it may be that over the years I’ve unwittingly become one of those grown-ups with more important places to be and more pressing things to attend to than_________. But now that change is around the corner, I think this calls for a mindset shift as well.
So here’s what I think I’ll do: I’m gonna devote more of my attention to _________, and worry less about the “important” stuff. Because actually, the happy stuff is the important stuff.
Wait, scratch that future tense. Happy is already here, and we’ve got lots of catching up to do.