My grandfather expects you to remove your hat when entering a building. He expects you to keep quiet until spoken to. Every time I see him he is smaller, knotted limbs and thin skinned. He went to work every single day and did the same exact tasks for over forty years. He provided for his family. There was always food on the table but there was little extra.
Did he ever ask himself: am I happy? am I content?
What would he make of such a question? What would he make of our instagram world? I don’t know. My guess would be pure bewilderment. I am also bewildered. Because my whole life there was someone who loved me (many someones, in fact) whispering a version of the mantra from The Help in my ear:
You is kind.
You is smart.
You is important.
I could do anything; I could be anything. My life had no limits. The expectations for me were high. The possibilities were endless. You are too smart, too talented to be less than the best. Somehow I warped all the love and care and hope my people had for me into a mantra more like that.
But what is the best? I’ve chased it my whole life. And though I am only a quarter of a way through the typical lifespan, chasing “the best” has only ever resulted in unhappiness, even when I’ve been the best. Because there is always better.
This article supposedly explains why my generation, the millennials, are so unhappy. It makes a lot of valid points; some of which I agree with. But it also misses the mark in several areas. I don’t live in the same world as my grandfather and I prefer hard data to cartoon images; this article claims that there are valid reasons for my generation to be “unhappy.”
But at the end of the day, neither points of view really make a difference. This is the world I live in. Thankfully, I am just here for a time before I move on to my real home. But this is it. This is what I’ve been given for my 80 years here. What, oh what, am I going to do with them?
Bring in the fab, DVF…
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew the woman I wanted to become.”
Diane Von Furstenberg
Being the best has nothing to do with happiness. And happiness is subjective. For my grandfather, the one thing that meant the world to him was putting food on the table because he grew up during the Depression when that was impossible.
For me, I’ve slowly come to realize that I could have all the material goods in the world (and enjoy living quite comfortably) but if I was unable to write, if someone took that from me, or I chose not pursue it, I would never be happy. Better yet, if I choose not pursue writing, I can kiss happiness goodbye. That doesn’t make me weird or freakish; that makes me a writer (which is a very scary word for another post). Although it does befuddle plenty of people who love me and desire the best for me.
Which again begs the question: what is the best for me? For me. For me. For me. Not the best, period. Not the best for you. What is the best for me? It’s really a question only I can answer. But the whole point of getting/being the best for me is so that I will be happy. That’s the equation, right?
Instead of: are you happy? I ask myself: who do you want to be? What kind of woman do you want to be? You are no longer a little girl. It’s time to start figuring out the bare minimum. You have today. What will you do with it?
It’s hard, this daily grind, the moment by moment choices to be that woman in the midst of paying rent and choosing health insurance plans (and let’s be honest, having the luxury of being able to do both) and other big girl choices that have to do with integrity and character. But one moment builds on another and somehow I’ve been in San Francisco a year.
Truth be told, I’ve spent too much energy on the wrong things. I can admit that now. Haven’t we all at one time or another taken our eye off the prize? Or forgotten what the prize was altogether and believed in another?
I no longer want to be part of the headline millennials identity crisis. I no longer want to ask myself: are you happy? I want to ask: what kind of woman do you want to be? What are you doing to try to become her? And Who are you trusting to fill in the gap?