Why Wait for Happiness?
Ah, spring. A time when snow filled skies turn blue and bleak landscapes become painted with sunshine. A time when the cold hard ground turns soft and forgiving once more. A time when flowers make their annual visit, poking their heads above the earth and making the world seem at least a little more beautiful. While spring does mark the transition of the weather and the surrounding scenery, it also marks the transition of seniors’ thoughts. Filled with college acceptances and rejections, the spring is often the time when seniors really start to think carefully about their futures. As we prepare to leave the familiar territory of high school, we begin to seriously contemplate what we want for our lives in college and beyond. Everybody has images in their mind of what their future will look like. What they will do, who they will be involved with, the type of person they will be. We conjure up these futures for ourselves and as a result are often consumed with doing everything in our power to ensure that things go as planned. Time and again we are so focused on what could be, that we seem to neglect what already is. We get caught up in trying to do every little thing in order to be happy later on, and yet never take the time to acknowledge the potential happiness that lies in front of us. We tell ourselves that it will all be worth it in the end, that in some not so distant future we will be rewarded for our efforts. While this may appear satisfactory for others, many of us need to start asking ourselves whether or not the promise of future contentment is worth the loss of present joy. Why must we wait for the future to be happy, to start making the choices that we truly desire? When is the last time you heard someone moan and gripe over their current situation? Whether it’s the job they have, the people they have surrounded themselves with, or anything else that brings them despair. When is the last time you saw someone who seemed empty of the passion for their everyday life, who appeared numb to the life that they are living? Someone who has put their dreams on hold, who has seemingly lost that twinkle in their eye? I’m willing to bet it was not too long ago. Maybe even you have felt this way yourself, lost and yearning for the hopes you once carried in your heart. On numerous occasions I have listened to those around me describe the choices they were making in an effort to better their future. Choosing college majors they have absolutely no interest in just because they believe that the salary they will someday receive will somehow compensate for the years of boredom and pain they will subsequently endure. Choosing to give up on their passions because they do not fit neatly into the careful plans they have laid out for their handcrafted destiny. We tell ourselves that eventually all of our work will pay off. Eventually we will be able to have what we want, to live the way we want. Eventually we will be happy, truly content with our lives. Eventually. But what happens when ‘eventually’ doesn’t work out? When you are stuck in some job that brings money to your wallet but no joy to your heart? When you are constantly doing things that do not even begin to bring that spark back that you used to feel when you were doing what you love? When all of the money, or whatever it is that you were so set on possessing, fails to revive that twinkle in your eye? And then all you have to look back on are the years spent making these undesirable choices, years of melancholy that were supposed to eventually bring you happiness. Now, this will not always be the case. There is always the chance that all of your hard work really will pay off and happiness will cease to elude you. But even still, is it not tragic to have to look back on your life and see all of the potential happiness that you allowed to slip through your fingers? There is no truth in the notion that we should all wait in line for a better tomorrow. Instead, we need to start living our lives today. Doing the things that make us happy now, rather than the things we hope will make us happy later on. It may be uncomfortable at first, beginning to allow yourself present joy at the risk of a “perfect” future. But is anything so great ever achieved without a little discomfort? We need to start living for the present, because living for the future is not living at all. There are so many opportunities at our feet right at this moment, so many possibilities at our doorstep. To ignore taking immediate action towards current happiness is to squander these opportunities and possibilities. The present truly is a gift, one that should not be wasted which such little care. Life doesn’t wait for anyone. Life is not a movie; there is no way to pause, reverse, or fast forward. The future is uncertain, but the present is now. We should all concern ourselves with doing what makes us happy now, because that is something that we all deserve to be. Happy. So the next time you catch yourself dwelling on the future, daydreaming about doing something to make yourself happy, stop. Instead, ask yourself one question: Why not now?