My friend Kate (I totally went back on my word from a previous post and changed her name) and I were on our way to the Recycled Lamb in Lakewood last Friday night to attend a relatively local-ish Stitch 'n Bitch. The drive was gorgeous, since we took the back way...hilly snow-covered plains, horses, even a couple of hawks hunting for their dinners.
The drive took about half an hour, and Kate and I started talking about how happy fiber makes us. Because fiber is basically a giant happiness generator, amiright? :) But then talk turned to life in general, and what "being happy" really means to both of us. Kate and I are about the same age, but she is in a different place in her life...she has two kiddos, she and her husband own their home, that kind of thing. She talked for awhile about how she and her family used to live in another neighborhood, one that she had always considered ideal and Norman Rockwell-esque. But after they bought a house there and moved in, she realized that the place was the quite the opposite. Neighbors didn't greet each other, children didn't play outside. It was all about how much money you had in relation to those around you. Sounds miserable to me, and it apparently was to Kate. She couldn't take it, and before long, had moved her family outta there and into a neighborhood that was much more positive and welcoming. She said from time to time, though, she still fell into the trap of envying other people's possessions. But how do you escape comparing yourself to someone else? How do you manage to NOT want someone else's position/money/power?
Then I talked about how I did relatively well in school and was on the track to grad school after college, but I made the "mistake" of working in the physical anthro lab. The work was interesting and enjoyable, but the grad students were something else. They were, as a whole, utterly jaded. Angry that their own work was regularly published under the professor's name...bitter that they put in long hours as TAs while being compensated peanuts. This would be my life if I continued on in academia, at least in my mind. So I turned down a project manager-ship that I'd been offered and got the heck out of Dodge, escaping to Germany for three months. I did a lot of traveling over the next few years, saving my pennies from my low-responsibility jobs. It made for an exciting life, and I met really wonderful people from all over the world, but every once in awhile I berate myself for falling far short of my (and my parents') expectations, as far as careers go. Sometimes I avoid calling my parents even now, because I didn't become a doctor. Not that this was specifically expected of me, but something incredible was, and I haven't really lived up. Anyway.
Josh and I are both fantastically underemployed in relation to our brain cells, don't make a great deal of money (though we have a LOT in comparison with most of the world)(though when I think about it, why am I okay with comparing myself to those who have less, but not those who have more?), and have lived in a teeny apartment for the past 6 years. But are we "happy"? I'd say yes. We love our neighbors, don't take our jobs home with us, have time for our hobbies, and have everything we need. The only thing I really wish for is to be geographically closer to my family. And I think if our neighbors put more stock in money and possessions, we might have a harder time, as Kate pointed out.
Mostly I feel incredibly lucky and grateful. I had the incredible good fortune to have been born in an amazing country, which -- despite its problems -- is chock full of opportunity and beauty. I have a loving partner who enjoys learning as much as I do. And I really couldn't ask for better friends. Yep, I'd say I'm a happy chickadee.