I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be happy. In our society, happiness often appears to correlate with monetary accumulation, or some obvious display of wealth, like the newest phone or the biggest TV. I have been admittedly guilty of falling into this trap time and time again. I could not tell you how many times in my past I have felt down or depressed about something or other and gone shopping to alleviate whatever random sadness I felt in my heart. And you know what? You DO feel better for a little while, but ultimately, I think you come to a point when you look around yourself and your surroundings and you realize that you have too much STUFF and that none of that stuff really makes you feel good inside. Obviously, this is not a new observation, but it is one I’ve been pondering quite a bit in the most recent months, as my husband and I discuss some very large impending life changes, which I’ve hinted at before, and will be talking about more in the next month or so.
Thinking about living at a level far, far below what I’m used to financially is very scary to me. I’m a worrier at heart, and even though I know I am making the right decision as far as my future goes, it is alarming and frightening to lose so much control over my life and my circumstances. To go from totally stable employment to something that isn’t stable and doesn’t offer anything in the way of concrete financial benefits, is terrifying. And yet, even more scary than that is the thought that I will never step out of my comfort zone and take a chance with my life, that I will never know what I am fully capable of if I continue to live and work inside of this small box I’ve constructed for myself.
To compound matters, several people very close to me are constantly reminding me of the fact that I’m about to do something risky, something that has the potential to completely screw up my life. I wish these people knew how much I desperately crave their approval, and the fact that they are so wary, implies to me (even if they do not realize it) that they have absolutely no faith in my abilities or my talent. And that hurts so deeply inside I could never put it into words. I suppose on one level, I realize they do not approve because they are scared and worried about me because they love me so much, but at the same time, it feels like a little knife inside my chest whenver I think about it. I wish they could just BELIEVE in me because so often I feel like I am seeking their approval and I never feel like I really ever have it when approval is so contingent on caution and on not taking any kind of chance.
In any case, those are just some relatively deep thoughts on this chilly Thursday morning. I hope to have some actual pictures up on the blog shortly, as I have been a shooting FIEND these past few weeks, with about a zillion more portrait sessions lined up.
I used to sit at my desk in college and dream. I would dream about the future and the exciting job I would some day have. I don’t think I ever imagined that my career would involve a series of bland cubicles, wasted time, and frustrating coworkers. Does anyone dream of spending their most vibrant years trapped in a gray cubicle for forty hours a week, doing mind-numbing work that in the end, doesn’t seem to matter all that much anyway?
I remember being in elementary school and attending a local church daycare a few days a week in summer. Sometimes I would walk to the bathroom on my own and I would pause in the walkway, staring outside at the cars traveling on the road ahead. I would wish with all of my might that I was inside one of those cars, free and easy, driving under the gleaming summer sun, instead of stuck inside, under the thumb of some authority I neither respected or cared for. I never thought I would do the same thing as an adult.
I used to be so certain that I was going to make something of myself. I was going to be a famous poet and writer, maybe even an artist, and no one was going to stop me. But I guess life steps in and at some point you realize that the chances of your being able to do what you love for a living and actually getting paid for it are fairly slim. So you dial down your dreams a notch or two, thinking that someday soon, once SOMETHING happens in life, you’ll get back to them. And then a few years pass, and you turn the dial down just a little bit lower, and then lower yet again, until you’re left with nothing but dryness and an ache in the empty pit of your stomach.
I was sitting in a meeting the other day, and people were discussing the minutia of this or that, and as they were speaking, I looked around the room. Who among us had dreamed as a child that we would some day be little office drones wearing nice little office suits and talking about dull little office concepts? No child ever says they want to be a businessman or woman when they grow up, do they? We always want to be something fantastical: an astronaut, a ballerina, a doctor, a singer. Sometimes we’re kept from our dreams by inescapable physical realities: the would-be ballerina who has a leg deformity, the would-be singer who is tone deaf. But most of the time, I think we stop ourselves because it’s too hard or too scary to step outside of our comfort zone and be the person we want to be, or even the person we know we can be. We hide our authenticity behind a facade of happiness, because after all, why shouldn’t we be happy? We have a nice job in an air-conditioned building, decent hours, a good salary, and nice benefits like health insurance and a retirement package, and all the while our souls die just a little bit more every day.
But I am tired now of waiting for the future. I am tired of putting what I want to do on the back burner. I want to live for myself now. I don’t want to live for anyone else. I don’t want to answer to anyone else. I want to do something that makes me feel important, needed, and fulfilled.
I want to die failing spectacularly at something I love, instead of living successfully doing something I hate. And I am taking steps to make that happen. Much more to come.