Longing, acquisition, and dissatisfaction. Regardless of our direction, our purpose, or our intentions, the course that our lives take will invariably assume this form at some point or another. We were taught at an early age—through the vast gallimaufry of our teachers’ lectures—that there is one attainable goal in life; one proverbial dream: our career goal. Be it a businessman, an artist, a doctor, a lawyer, or what have you, once obtained, it will result in a pure and unadulterated satisfaction in life…or so we were told. We were taught at an early age, that once we obtain our goal, all the things we wish to extract from our brief time on this planet will come to us. We were misled.
I, much like you, attended grade school for twelve years and upon completion I received nothing more than a pat on the back and a piece of eloquently designed parchment. I was told throughout my twelve years of grade school that the high school I attended mattered. I was told that the college I chose to attend mattered. Throughout my four years as an undergraduate, I was told that the major I chose to study mattered. And once I received the degree I worked ever so hard for, they told me that the job I chose mattered. Our teachers, our mentors, our tutors, and our guides inculcated that these things mattered, and achieving that career goal was the zenith of our happiness.
Well, one day, we will get that job, and as we lean back in our office chair, we will realize that we are not happy. We have slaved from our blissfully naïve formative years until the present. We were told that upon getting that degree and getting that job, we would be happy. All the things we wanted in our lives will come to us, but somehow it is nowhere to be found. It depresses us to know that the indentured servitude will not end there. We will serve, and serve, and serve until the very shackles of our employment sleep with us eternally. The thought of our dissatisfaction will ruminate in our minds and culminate in an irascible existence. We will come to the conclusion that our teachers, our mentors, our tutors, and our guides—the ones who swore to teach us truthfully—broke their word.
We slaved through our entire lives, baited along the way with promises of happier, better futures. We were told to try, and try, and try—to constantly reach a higher plateau of achievement. And it translates into all facets of our lives. We long for so many things in life: we want the best cars, the most glamorous jewelry, the largest houses, and swollen bank accounts to sleep on. We finally acquire these things and for some reason—a reason that eludes our grasp—something is amiss. Upon our acquisitions, we will realize it was not enough and we will beg for more. Somehow we fool ourselves into thinking that indulging in these things would ameliorate the void of dissatisfaction in our lives. Indeed it was all a cruel ruse.
Somewhere along the way, we forgot something. A big something. A lacking semblance of our lives that we really should not be able to live without, but somehow managed to. The enjoyment of simply living.
Alan Watts once said,
“In music, one does not make the end of a composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best composers would be those who played faster. And there would be composers who wrote only finales…”
With music as his simulacra, Watts evinces to us that life is not about waiting for the end, but rather, life is about enjoying its duration. The values of the so-called “teachings” we have acquired over the years have been unfocused. The plethora of lectures we have listened to throughout our entire lives has been fixated on our studies, our achievements, and our goals. And although these things are quite important, they are not the focal points of our lives. It should not be.
That is not to say that our education and our jobs are not important, however. Our education is the single most important tool at our disposal throughout our lives. The need for education is a ubiquitous element of our existence and it will affect us in everything that we say, think, or do. Having a stable and good paying job is the basis of a comfortable life; it is a necessity for existence. But the distinction that our teachers have failed to make here is that “comfortable” is not “happiness”. And so I earnestly implore you: focus your attention to happiness, because you have comfort. The best paying jobs and the highest forms of education grant you more comfort, but it does not award you with happiness.
What makes us happy will vary greatly among us but the result will be the same. Personally, what makes me happy—and this is in the literal sense, not just the proverbial—is my friends, my family, my health, and the wellbeing of each. I strive to surround myself with my love ones, and I strive to add people to that group. Meeting new people and building friendships with them is among the most thrilling experiences in my life, and I’m thrilled to meet each and every person I come in contact with. You know who you are.
I wake each day to a variety of emotions: frustration, happiness, contempt, anger, and excitement. But somehow, I never fail to realize that the aggregate of my life’s components is my happiness. Sometimes I walk outside in the morning and just observe my surroundings. I stare at the sky, the cars rushing by, the birdsong, and the crisp morning air, and I realize that life is not about the end but rather the enjoyment of its duration. Hey heyy world, emoboy’s stepped outside his room, ya’ll.
So back in the day, I was told throughout my formative years in grade school that the high school I attended mattered. It did not. I was told that the college I chose to attend mattered. It did not. I was told that the major I chose to study mattered. It did not. I was told that the job I held mattered. It did not. Our teachers, our mentors, our tutors, and our guides inculcated that these things mattered, but alas, it did not. It did not, and their words now hang as anathema in the closet filled with my trophies, awards, and certificates. They did not outwardly lie to us, they simply omitted a very important morsel of information that we needed to know.
Life is about living it, so please don’t forget it. Achieve those professional goals and always strive for more, as I am doing the same, but never make your job your life. There are many who told us that we should work towards the end goals of our lives, when we should have simply danced to the music.