“What would make you happy tonight?”
It resonated because I’ve spent the past few days asking myself a series of questions that revolve around happiness and contentment. They were questions like:
- Do I really want to get married and have kids? Why?
- Do I really want to move to D.C.? Why?
- What are the things I enjoy outside of work?
- What makes a great day for me? A great week? A good moment?
It is so easy to fall into the generic responses: travel, friends, good food and wine, etc. And, the truth is, we all like those things, in some measure or type, so there also should not be any shame in saying just those ‘generic’ things.
(In other words: while some of us are special, most of us are not, and that is fine).
But, I care about these questions because I care mostly about the ‘whys’ the sit behind them. Why do I want to get married? Why do I want to have kids? Why do I want to move?
The more you dig… the more you need to keep digging because it starts to unearth your drivers and the things you value. What would make me happy tonight?
I think I value…
- A short commute… because while I love what I do for work, I also want to be able to enjoy my friends and my hobbies
- Living in a place where I can afford to rent well and within my budget… because I want that short commute, would like to be able to afford my hobbies, and don’t want to give myself monetary anxiety or sacrifice reasonable comforts
- Connection… which is why I make talking with and spending real quality time with my friends a priority; it keeps us all sane and anchored in a destabilizing world
- Community… which is why I want to be able to volunteer regularly and be part of something larger than just myself
- Relaxation… because I matter; while I do feel good about serving others, I also am not a martyr and I have value in and of myself which means I need to do things to take care of myself and not have guilt about it
- Health… so while I love wine and scotch and mac+cheese and all sorts of food, I prioritize swimming regularly and find it easy to pass on nightly happy hours
- Traveling often enough… to keep my eyes open and perspective broad but mainly to help me to remember to value what I have at home
It is hard, though, to say the above and to stick to them. We don’t live in isolation: we live in filter bubbles. Those filter bubbles, outworkings of our offline tribal behaviors, patterns, habits, and mores, are stronger and more powerful than every before. What are some of the things pushed on us?
“The right age to be married is by [x] or you’ve missed the boat.” [Says who and why?]
“The best city to live in is [x].” [Says who and why?]
“Open relationships are the way of the future; just embrace it.” [Says who and why?]
“Wear [this]; take [this] job; eat [this] food…” [Says who and why?]
And blah, blah, blah. There are so many experts on how we should live and what that means and what is valuable, from our parents to our friends to the magazines we read to the IG accounts we follow and the Twitter accounts we retweet… so, much, damn noise!
“What would make you happy tonight?”
Exactly what I already had planned: dinner and drinks with a new friend, listening to music when I get back home as I prepare for bed, reading another chapter or two in the book I started last night, and a quiet night’s sleep.
I’ll save the hard partying and shots and Snap-worthy and IG-worthy moments for another night… and keep kicking the can on that until I finally admit that while those felt great for awhile, and they fit my “filter bubble”, these days, I’m mostly over other people’s ideas about who I should be and how I should live–
I’m mainly into who I am and actually just living.
(That will make me happy tonight. And every other night.)