I've spent a good part of my life contemplating the question of happiness in some form or another—trying to define it, question it, and chase it. In my quest to find answers, I've stumbled across other stories of people who are struggling to find the same thing—and their stories have led me to try to make sense of it all.
I have friends that have quit successful jobs mid-career because they've felt unfulfilled or simply needed time to find themselves. I read a really inspiring blog post about a woman who dared others to take the leap and follow their calling. Turns out, it's way harder than it sounds. But she too, found the courage to quit her successful job to pursue a crazy dream.
Maybe because I'd been thinking about it so much—these stories seemed to reoccur and appear again and again...
I read another article about an unfulfilled New York lawyer who took a break from law to follow the Knicks for year and write about his experience. I read a memoir, The Lost Girls, by Jennifer Bagget, which chronicles the story of three twentysomething Manhattanites who quit their grinding, fast-paced jobs to backpack the world for a year.
I've also met my share of fellow travelers who had a similar story—a British traveler who quit his comfortable job to travel for an undetermined amount of time. An Australian traveler who was experiencing a quarter-life crisis and was trying to figure out his life while hitting the hostel circuit and passing time by commiserating with other strangers in similar state of crisis. In fact, at the time, I was taking a similar trying-to-find-myself journey.
The one commonality that keeps popping up in all of these stories seems to be the need to find meaning. Perhaps outside the confines of our safe, everyday lives there's something urging us to do something extraordinary and live outside ourselves. What that actually means? I haven't quite figured out.
Somehow, seeing and reflecting on this, there's comfort in knowing that I'm not alone in this need to understand, define, and chase happiness. More than that, the feeling of needing to strip down the basic constructs of happiness and understand how its mediated in day-to-day life, seems urgent. I feel like I'm reaching a critical juncture.
But as I write this post, a part of me, can almost hear the retractors lament on how ridiculous and frivolous it all seems. And I wonder...is this a symptom of my generation? Are we guilty of the "entitlement" label that others have used to describe us or are we simply more conscious of own state of happiness, willing to question it, and not simply accept the status quo?
I've often wondered if these questions tied to the pursuit of happiness—finding a life purpose, fulfillment, etc. were part of a unique social construct. In other words, are they culturally defined? Do people who live in societies with less defined choices also stop to question their path in life in search of something greater? Do they even have the luxury of choice?
Are these questions mediated by a certain degree of wealth and stability? I can't help but think that raising these questions is tied to a sense of privilege. Is my generation too entitled because my parents' generation and the generations before had to sacrifice so much in order for me to enjoy the quality of life I take for granted?
Are people just more vocal about their unhappiness today because of those reasons or am I just more awakened to them because I share a similar dissonance with modern life?
Questions that beget more questions...