It took me a long time to figure out what really makes me happy. For a while I thought it was a meaningful relationship. Then I thought it was a successful academic and professional career. Later in life I thought it was drinking way too much and conquering members of the opposite sex. Unfortunately all of these highs eventually drudged themselves into rather depressing lows.
Then, in a situation that one can only imagine as miserable, I found myself happy… ecstatically happy. I was a 29 year old, divorced, masters degree holding, financially stable, lily-white Army recruit lying in my bunk after an absolutely miserable first day of basic training. Some of my training platoon mates were crying, some were pondering ways to get out of the horrible mistake they had just made; I however, was as calm and as peaceful as I had ever been.
This is where I first realized what it takes (besides food, water, and shelter) to keep me going. I need change. No matter how high I climb in any aspect of my life, I can’t be happy if I stay there for very long. I’m not sure what drives this need. Maybe it was being raised as an only child by a single mother. Maybe it was constantly teetering the line between “secure middle class” and “less fortunate.” Maybe it was the frequent opportunities I had to travel as a teenager. No matter what put this necessity for variety in my head, it’s there and almost contracting itself, it won’t go away.
Coming to this realization has led to my life becoming incredibly fulfilling. I am in a career that I truly enjoy now, but I know that this feeling won’t last very long so instead of figuring out how to have the Army vest itself in me, I’m making plans on what I will do after my contract is over (currently my track of thinking has me pursing my Ph.D.). I am in a wonderful relationship with the woman I’ll marry on the winter solstice and am always thinking about ways to make our relationship new and fresh (ladies… wearing new lingerie and trying new hair styles every now and then really does help).
Of course, this does present some real problems in my life. Can I stay monogamous? Can I realistically build a retirement savings? Can I ever be a good father? I think I can overcome all of these as long as I can keep aligning those interests with my need to change; making love outside of our apartment, taking control of my investment portfolio from my “advisors,” experiencing the satisfaction of learning with the kids I hope to have some day.
Realizing my happiness sparkplug has changed my life and will continue to do so. Living “in the process” is so much more rewarding for me than the fruits of my labor. I think I’d be content to have that as a constant.
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