So some time has passed since I first proposed my happiness project. A couple of days later, I wondered to myself, “Ugh. What have I done?” I didn’t know where or how to start and feared that I may have been experiencing temporary insanity or some majorly false grandeur. I hate to make a promise of any time and take it back, especially after it’s been written.
So I gave the matter some thought. And I did a bit of research, a bit of jotting, and a bit of soul searching. And this is what I discovered:
According to different sources that I consulted, having high levels of happiness is dependent upon different factors that make up different percentages of being happy. Some of these factors vary in how greatly they can impact a person’s state of happiness. For example, I read a range of anywhere from 20% – 50% of happiness is genetically determined. That’s a pretty significant discrepancy, and I’m not really certain how reliable those figures are, nor how the researchers came up with them in the first place.
Moreover, while being married also supposedly contributes to the probability of one’s happiness, having children diminishes it. Maybe it’s because my child is still an infant, but in all honesty, that statement is one that I simply can’t wrap my head around. It seems completely counter intuitive. For me, it’s been the opposite experience. Having my son has made me feel happier and more complete. The fact is, I’ve got a Type A personality up the wazoo. I’m a compulsive worrier, and my first reaction to most any problem, predicament, or crisis is to automatically hit the metaphorical “panic” button. Having my baby has given me a much-needed reality check. I simply don’t have enough energy to expel harping on non-essential fretting. Without Sebastian, I would be a rolling stone with a missing piece, and I wouldn’t appreciate the more simple, beautiful details of life because I wouldn’t even know how to. If it weren’t for him, I can say without any reservation that I would be a great deal unhappier.
In all honestly, it made me raise an eyebrow when I continually read that money can’t buy happiness. It makes me think of a scene from the 1953 movie “How to Marry a Millionaire,” when a man asks Lauren Bacall’s character, “Do you seriously believe that money automatically brings you happiness?” to which she quips, “No, but it doesn’t automatically depress me, either.” Yes, I agree, the physical pieces of paper with dead presidents on them does not overwhelm me with glee. I’ve got no doubt that fixating on money all the time is incredibly unhealthy and damaging to one’s state of happiness. However, I feel as though it would be fair to add that when it is used wisely, having money can undoubtedly help to enhance happiness. There are times that I wish I had enough money to travel more frequently (not even to any place particularly exciting, unless you consider Ohio to be an exotic and glamorous getaway, in which case I feel a bit sorry for you!). What would make me happy sometimes would just to be able to see my family, which isn’t really an option while living overseas. While I don’t lament the fact that I live here in Argentina, I do indeed regret that important sacrifices had to be made to get to this point. But c’est la vie, I suppose.
My point is that the whole happiness thing is so subjective, so arbitrary, so fickle, that I guess is that perhaps it’s not really worth it in the end for me to pursue a fully-fledged “Happiness Project” per se similar to that of Gretchen Rubin. The fact is, I’m not a work-from-home professional, published author with enough time and incentive to devote an entire book’s worth of personal experience into an additional, full time job. I’m just an amateur blogger who is trying to find her way and utilizes writing as both an outlet and tool for further self exploration (and hopefully will get a few hits on my blog here and there along the way!).
In short, when I stopped harping and thinking about it so darned much, a very relevant and meaningful memory came back to me. I recalled when I was in the fourth grade, and we had to fill in these “All About Me” worksheets and complete the blanks with information about ourselves. Obviously a lot about me has changed in the 20+ years since that worksheet. I no longer consider the Beach Boys to be my favorite music group (*cringe*) and I no longer have the same BFF that I had at the age of nine. I no longer wear my hair in a side pony tail (yes, I was guilty of that!). But one particular part of that paper stands out to me. It asked me, “What are my most important goals in life?” to which I answered:
- To have a good education
- To be physically fit
- To be happy
It makes me think that I should listen to my inner nine year old more often.
So what’s the main point of this particular entry? I guess it’s me taking the stance that maybe a formal happiness project is not necessarily the way to go. It doesn’t have to be so calculated and premeditated. All in all, after all that reading and all that thinking and all that planning, I believe that the coveted concept of happiness in all its glory is not something that can actively be pursued, it’s something that must ensue. Maybe if I stop thinking so much about goals and plans of action and quantifying data, and just go out there and be the best Violet that I can be, I might just honor my nine year old’s dream… And wouldn’t that be cool?
So it all starts today. A new day, a new opportunity. And…. Here I go!
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