Thursday, August 10, 2006

What makes you happy?

Okay, so here's an observation and a question. The thing I've learned is that the grass is always greener on the other side, it's just the other side is always... well, the other side. :)

No matter how much you have in life, there is always something lacking. Our dreams change, our expectations alter, our goals shift. Out here in the academoblogosphere, I learn that while I am miserable about this job search, about the uncertainty of my status, of whether the effort in this direction or that will pay off down the road, I realize that there are many others who have the things I ostensibly want (a tenure track job, for instance) who are truly none the happier for it.

There are those who suffered like I for years seeking a post, getting ever more bitter along the way, only to attain that dream, then have it shattered by closed-mindedness and bigotry, or what have you. And there are many more who look at what I do have in life with great envy. I mean, I have a wonderful spouse, two beautiful creative boys, a comfortable amount of savings, and a great deal of freedom to choose my path.

I don't want to be bitter. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and makes it harder to enjoy all the delicious foods I cook. As What Now? recently put it in a comment on this blog:
My friends hung in there with me, but I didn't like being around me!

And there you have it in a nutshell. But the question remains, what makes someone happy? How do we get there? BrightStar recently asked similar questions.

I recall when my wife was miserable those many years ago, before we moved to Paradise for me to pursue the PhD. What I recognized in her was that it was all attitude and expectations. She had entered her field with wide-eyed idealism. She wanted to change the world for the better, colonize space, explore the universe. And what she wound up doing was working indirectly on television satellites, so people could have 113 channels instead of 103.

She was ready for a change, and we took one. She contemplated going back to school, or entering a different field entirely. She's the scientist with the soul of an artist, and I'm the artist with the heart of a scientist. Together we make a pretty good pair. In the end, she figured the move 1100 miles was change enough, so she stuck to her work. It was a known quantity.

I asked her this morning whether she were happy with work. Pretty much, sometimes. Ah, so there's the clincher. It's us, not it. Look inside, my friend, myself. Find what it is you want.

No comments: