There’s a story I want to share with you. One I am sure you’ll like.
A teenage girl walked through town. She had a sad look on her face, she had cried. Her eyes were red and swollen. She anxiously fiddled around with her fingers as she passed an elderly lady. The elderly lady sat on her walker and was enjoying the nice summer afternoon. It was pleasantly cool outside, after the warm, almost too warm, summer day. The elderly lady noticed the tears on the girl’s face. “Is everything alright my dear?” She asked the girl. The girl was shocked, she hoped nobody would notice her. She wanted to disappear with what she was going through. “Do I look alright?” She answered angrily. The elder lady smiled softly. “I see.” She stayed quiet for some time, and the girl wanted to continue on her walk, but the elderly woman grabbed her hand. “Do you want to talk about it?” The elderly woman asked. “No. You’re a stranger, you know nothing of what I am going through.” She answered. “I see. Please don’t make a choice that makes what you are going through even worse.” She added, and then let go of the girl’s hand. The girl continued her walk.
She thought about the words of the elderly woman. For some strange reason, the elderly woman felt trustworthy. Maybe it was because it felt as if she genuinely cared about her, or maybe it was because of the words she spoke. The girl felt sorry for her rude way of talking to the elderly woman. Something deep inside her told her to go back to the elderly woman. She was just a few blocks away now and decided to go back. She picked up her pace and was relieved to see that the elderly woman was still sitting on her walker. Petting a cat that laid on her lap. The elderly woman saw the young girl approach her, and she smiled. She knew the young girl would come back. All of them did.
“I’m sorry.” The young girl said as she stood before the elderly woman. “For what?” The woman replied. “For being rude to you.” The girl answered. “Oh that’s perfectly fine, it’s not every day that a stranger asks if you are okay. I’d do the same if I were your age. These days you never know if someone is gonna hurt you.” The elderly woman said. The teenage girl was a bit frightened now. The elderly woman noticed this and quickly added “I won’t hurt you, don’t worry.” She once more grabbed the young lady’s hand. “Tell me, what’s it you cried about?” The elderly woman asked.
“Why do you need to know so desperately what makes you happy?”
“Well… I’m about to finish high school, and I have to choose what I want to do next. So I have these huge lists of colleges and different kinds of degrees, and I just don’t…” The girl started sobbing. The elderly woman held onto her hand. “Come, come, we’ll sit on the porch. The elder woman got up and slowly made her way down the cobblestone path. She didn’t let go of the girl’s hand. The two of them sat down at a small round table with an, in roses covered rubber tablecloth.
“Why don’t you know what you want to do?” The elder woman asked when the girl was calming down again. “Well, my mom and dad want me to choose a degree that I both like and that makes good money. But I don’t want to go to college. So I told them that I might want to have a few gap years and that there could be a possibility that I wouldn’t attend college at all. At least not for now.” The girl was quiet for some time. “They got mad, which I understand because they only want the best for me. When they calmed down they asked me what I did want to do then. and…” the girl started crying again. The elderly lady touched her heart, and had an affectionate smile on her face. She felt sorry for the girl. “And,” the girl continued whilst wiping away some of her tears. “I don’t know what it is I want to do, I don’t know what makes me happy.” She said, holding in another flood of tears. “My parents got mad at me again, but what was worse is that I feel so lost, so depressed that I don’t know what makes me happy.” The girl said.
The elderly woman grabbed the girl’s hand with both her hands. “Why do you need to know so desperately what makes you happy?” The elderly woman asked looking the girl straight in the eyes. “Well… isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Figure out what makes us happy and do that?” The girl asked. “Well, there are a lot of things that make us happy. Aren’t there?” The woman asked. The girl nodded. “Like the flowers, or my cat over here.” The cat that was in her lap just a moment ago was walking onto the porch. “The question isn’t what makes you happy young girl, there are plenty of things that make you happy, the question is what makes you feel peaceful and calm?” The girl frowned. “Why would I want to be peaceful?” She asked. “Now, with peaceful I don’t mean that you have to sit somewhere and do nothing. With peaceful I mean that you feel content with whatever life is. You are so caught up in figuring out what makes you happy that you lose out on all the things that can make you happy right now.” The elderly woman smiled at the young girl. “Being at peace with the world, that’s what we really want.” The woman padded the girl on her hand and let go.
“All will be alright because the world will keep spinning. Soon you’ll see that you’ll figure out what it is that makes you happy. But more importantly, what makes you feel at peace with yourself and the world.”
“But how will I figure out what to do now then?” The girl asked. “Just be young my dear love, just enjoy your life. Empty your mind of all the believes you hold. You don’t need to be happy, nor do you need to figure out what you want to do in life. Let go, release your tension on life. All will be alright because the world will keep spinning. Soon you’ll see that you’ll figure out what it is that makes you happy. But more importantly, what makes you feel at peace with yourself and the world. Something that makes you feel valuable.” The woman looked away, as a butterfly fluttered by. She smiled. “Now that makes me happy.” She said and started laughing.
It’s the Experience That Makes Us Happy
Over the years one question has always stuck with me. It’s the question of what makes you happy. It’s a question thrown around a lot, and it suggests that we go and look for it. That we must search for our happiness. So did I. By trying to find what makes me happy. Not just that but once I found something that would, for the most amount of time, make me happy, I started asking myself if it truly was what made me happy. As soon as I felt bad, or worried I started questioning if what I was doing was the right thing to do.
“It’s life itself that makes it worthwhile. It is the experience of life itself that makes you happy.“
Searching for our happiness makes us paranoid. We start to look for it in every moment, and every place. By doing that we lose out on the incredible beauty of life itself. The search for what makes you happy is an illusion that will only draw you further away from what you truly want. Which is the feeling of being alive. Which is an experience that can’t be found, nor is it always an experience of rainbows and sunshine. What you want when you are looking for happiness is to be at peace. To enjoy life as it is. In short, to be empty of mind. To hold no thoughts or questions over what makes you happy, or what makes life worthwhile. It’s life itself that makes it worthwhile. It is the experience of life itself that makes you happy.
It’s why this story is so powerful. I’ve been taught that I should make choices that make me happy, which the girl in the story also has been taught. Yet what’s been getting more and more obvious to me has been the fact that every choice, no matter what it is, makes you happy. At least that is if you don’t resist what you choose. Let me give you an example of that.
“The only reason why we hate a 9 to 5 job is that we resist it for an idea of something we think is better.”
Let’s say we have two options, we either choose to work a 9 to 5 job in a restaurant, or we can travel the world and make our money as a photographer. Two extremes on the spectrum of jobs right? Yet for some the 9 to 5 job is amazing, whilst for others the traveling is amazing. I say that we can all enjoy both. Why? Because the only reason why we hate a 9 to 5 job is that we resist it because we have an idea of something we think is better. Like traveling the world. But if you were to resist traveling the world because you want to stay with your family you would also hate traveling. You see it’s not necessarily the thing we do that makes us enjoy life, and be happy. It’s letting go of whatever the outcome of the choice is, and just make it and go with it. Just enjoy it, just be okay with it.
And that’s really the key here.
Just Be Okay
Just be okay, in my mind means that I am calm, patient, and peaceful with whatever it is I am okay with. To get back to the two options I shared with you. We can be okay with working a 9 to 5 job. Which will result in us enjoying the 9 to 5 job more and more. We can start to enjoy the interactions with customers in the restaurant. We can enjoy cleaning or making cocktails. All these activities are perfectly suited to make us happy. It’s just a question of ‘are you okay with it?’ The moment we are okay with something we are open to being happy.
“The moment we are okay with something we are open to being happy.”
That’s why I think we shouldn’t ask ourselves ‘what makes me happy?’. That could be everything. What we should ask instead is what will make me feel at peace? And more importantly, how can I let go of any thoughts, or opinions I have over life. If you can do that, if we can be completely okay with life, we will see that it’s the closest we will ever get to an everlasting feeling of joy. To get there we need to understand that there is no ‘getting to there’ we are already there. The moment we start to see it as a future objective again the feeling will be gone. Just be okay.
Just be peaceful, and calm, and okay with life. Whatever life is like to you right now. And that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make choices that make us happy, or that we shouldn’t learn and try to get out of shitty situations. Not at all. It means that we are okay with being in a shitty situation at first, and from that, we can start to move out and away from it. We can start to enjoy that process of uncovering what’s bothering you. Which is often associated again with you not being okay with something.
Empty your mind, be peaceful, focus on your breath. But don’t focus too hard, or too soft on your breath. Balance it out. Just be present, be present of the chatter in your head. That’s the closest you’ll ever get to happiness. Just be okay with what’s going on in your life. Whether that be school, work, thoughts, sports, food, or a kitten. Be present in life, and empty your mind. Just enjoy holding your phone, or tablet, or laptop right now. Experience the sensation of holding on to it and reading. That’s all it is. That’s all it means to be alive. That’s all we can do to say at the end of our day Today I Lived! I made the most of it.