We are taught to believe that the future holds the key to our happiness. The future is that elusive and beautiful butterfly that is always just out of reach. We chase it, or not, but it is always flitting about, out there in the hemisphere, the sun reflecting the many colors of its wings in our face and we comfort ourselves with the simple fact that down the road – we will find happiness.
As little kids we have already grasped the idea that when we get into Middle School, things will be better, then it comes along and the bar is raised to the High School goal line. Becoming a 13 year old teenager came and went and we found it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, because 14 seemed to be the real place we wanted.
The Holy Grail of teendom arrives! 16! We know when we reach that amazing pinnacle of maturity; we will find freedom in the form of a driver’s license and a shiny new Mustang convertible that daddy buys. That position on the football team or number one chair in orchestra is good for a season, but you know in your heart that until that big something comes, you just will not experience true happiness.
Your first real romance is magical and you honestly believe you couldn’t be happier – until your cruel life deals you a horrendous blow and you sink into depression and despair feeling that nothing good can bring you back. Lost loved ones, sickness, bullies, arguments, and friends who turn on you seem to strip you of anything resembling happiness, yet here and there, a kind word, a song on the radio, or an unexpected gift cause your happiness flame to once again flicker. There’s hope, yes, hope of that evasive entity – happiness.
The Mustang car never materialized and you find yourself working two side jobs to pay your way through community college. You’ve had enough bad romances that you honestly believe Mr. or Ms. Right do not exist, but you keep trying; just like you do in your classes. Where is this Utopia you always heard was in your path? Is this all life has to give? When can you find Nirvana?
Things begin to accelerate and one day turns into the next, with no real anchor to help you distinguish one day from the next. You get your Associates degree and are immediately hired on at a place you feel will make you happy, but soon learn they expect you to get your Bachelor’s degree to stay on. Now you are working 40 to 50 hours a week and attending night classes. You have no time for romance and the demands of your job and school keep you so occupied, you feel you are unappealing, so why bother?
On the upside, you are steadily advancing in the workplace and getting satisfactory evaluations and you are 26 years old before the first inkling of true happiness enters your consciousness. “Happiness is a state of mind, not a location. Happiness is the fulfillment of duties, more than a trip to Six Flags”. You sit at your desk at the end of the day and decide what will really make you happy at this very moment is knowing that you just turned in a project you can be proud of and in about 30 minutes, you are going to enjoy a delicious salad and maybe a glass of wine, or sweet tea with real sugar.
When you get to your apartment, you are going to bathe and watch that new series you’ve become addicted to and yes, you will shut off your Smartphone and enjoy a quiet evening babying yourself because you deserve it. It’s the end of a grueling 60 hour week, you’ve pumped out more than your share of quality work and you slide into the seat of the Mustang you recently bought and head for the house.
You suddenly realize you are happy.
You have reached a place most people never attain. They keep chasing the elusive butterfly of happiness, not realizing they’ve stood on the threshold all their life. It was there all along, all they had to do was see it. The sweet-smelling rose has always been there, awaiting your sniff, but you couldn’t see it due to your far-sightedness and the paradigm you learned by those around you.
No one or nothing can make you happy. Happiness is a state of mind and living in that moment is the goal. It’s your assignment at birth and there are no CliffsNotes or shortcuts. Slow down, look around, and start living your life with purpose. Only then my friends will you find the happiness that eludes you.