In my last post, I finally embraced my freedom. Scared as hell, fully accountable for my decisions and actions, and realizing that I had no one left to blame, I looked freedom square in the eye as it told me, “Ready, set, go!”
“What now?” I asked anxiously, worried that I would make bad choices, that I would squander my life, that I would find myself running back to comfortable confinement.
I’ve experienced a whirlwind of emotions, thoughts, and experiences in the last ten days and thought it might be worth sharing them.
- Having no excuse to be unhappy is a happy thought. A few days ago, when I was feeling especially anxious about what I thought I should be doing, I just told myself, quote, “I have no reason to not be happy.” Instead of invalidating my feelings (which is what might have happened had someone else said that to me), it actually felt like a weight had been lifted. I felt lighter, and happier, and more in tune with the moment. Not looking for a reason to be unhappy was incredibly comforting.
- Postponement is often an excuse for avoidance. I have spent most of my life postponing pleasure and happiness. There is place for discipline, no doubt. Saving some money for a rainy day is wise. Working, learning, or building for the sake of a better tomorrow can be beneficial. But life postponement is often just a rationalization for life avoidance. We often continue working and fretting and running around like headless chickens because it’s easier than facing our fears of living fully and richly.
- Happiness is incompatible with crisis mode. My life has been a long string of solving problems, creating wealth, climbing ladders, and self-improvement, all of which has felt urgent for a variety of reasons. But nothing is urgent anymore – and, arguably, never was. Crisis mode is hard on the body, and you can’t have fun if you’re constantly worried or panicked or running on adrenaline. “Don’t worry, be happy” seems trite, but no matter how successful a person is, he can always worry about something.
- Envy is a complete waste of an emotion. In a previous post, I criticized envy of luxury. Meanwhile, I continued to envy lots of other people for their talents, their skills, their fame, and their success. This realization became very poignant when I read The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau, who at my age has visited every country in the world. I felt small and inadequate, having only visited 52 countries. But he has a different life, different dreams, different personality. To reach his goal, he worked incredibly hard, traveling to some very uncomfortable and often dangerous places (including both Somalia and North Korea!), a painfully arduous task that doesn’t interest me. Instead of envying him, or anyone else, best to simply relieve myself of the impetus to compete or compare myself to others. Once I finally let go of the notion that I needed to be like anyone else, a huge weight was lifted. It’s a lot easier to be happy in my own skin when I don’t have to live up to anyone else’s standards.
- Choosing one’s own path is a lonely affair. It has to be. I am thankful to be supported by loving family and friends. They can provide me comfort, but they can’t help me forge my path. Hugh MacLeon, author of Ignore Everybody, asserts that “The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care.” This is actually an empowering realization; when I accept that intentionally choosing my own life is a lonely affair, then it’s easier to be thankful for the empathy and companionship I find in others, even if they don’t fully understand or relate to my journey.
- Every option is an option. I recently watched Vegucated, a low-budget but nonetheless impassioned documentary created by a proselytizing vegan. Also a huge fan of documentary Food, Inc. and Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, I decided to give veganism a try. I’m only two days into it, and I have no commitment to it. Still, every time I look at meat, I think of the treatment of food animals, look at my pup, shrug my shoulders, and choose the veggie option. I never saw myself as the vegan type, but forging my own path means being willing to look at different philosophies and lifestyles, try them on, and decide what fits the best.
Have you ever been unhappy even when nothing was actually going wrong? What did you do about it?