As I sat there in my 1500 sq. ft. condo in Orange County, I enjoyed what I saw, but I wasn’t happy. I looked in the parking lot and saw my two brand new cars and thought about how nice it was to drive them, but that didn’t make me happy either. I thought about the vacation I had just taken to Las Vegas with my closest friends, and the money we gambled and the women we met. As fun and nice as all these things were I still wasn’t happy. Finally I thought about my job. As a Border Patrol Agent, I thought I was living my dream of working in law enforcement. I had all these things, but still I wasn’t happy. What was wrong?
I finally realized that the job that I had that allowed me to have all the nice things was the one thing that didn’t allow me to be happy. While it had always been my dream to work in law enforcement, I wasn’t happy with the experience with the Border Patrol. We had the tools, the authority and the will to do our jobs, we just had no support. The first few years were a dream come true. I knew of no other job where you could arrest bad guys, confiscate drugs and do a myriad of other things and make fifty thousand dollars your first year and have no college education. My coworkers and I were effective and we were happy.
Then the stifling regulations began to be imposed. Little by little we were hamstrung by policies which seemed to make no sense. Each time we were able to perform our duties effectively within the policy; it seemed a new one was imposed that banned our actions. After dealing with this for several years, my coworkers and I came to the conclusion that we were being paid to do a job that no one cared about and management didn’t seem to want us to do. My disgust with this state of affairs manifested itself through self destructive behavior. I began to drink heavily, I chain smoked, I became more promiscuous, and I gambled. Finally, after waking up one day with a hangover, coughing uncontrollably and not able to remember the name of the woman I was in bed with, I realized that it was time for a change.
If work was the root of my self destructive behavior and the thing which was keeping me from being happy, then it was time to do something else. I threw my old life away and decided to start anew. I sold the condo and one of the cars, I moved in with a friend and began to go back to school. Once I left the Border Patrol, I began to feel better. I gave up all the extraneous things in life and got back to the basics. Today the future is uncertain. After I graduate I have no idea what I am going to do. I do know one thing: whatever I do doesn’t have to make me rich, it just has to make me happy.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.