Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Pursuit of Happiness

A friend complained, I don't know how to be happy. Point taken: If happiness is about being content, I surely show symptoms of being unhappy. To be fair, she wanted to make the point that I possibly had everything that one could reasonably want, and therefore, I should drop the anchor and try to achieve steady state. I tried to counter and justify myself, which is quite usual in such friendly arguments.

In the end, it became almost a religious argument, without invoking God. I should be happy with what I was given, and make the best of it, she contended. On the defencive as if I am accused of being too greedy or ambitious (growing up in suburban India before the liberalisation, I am not used to treating those emotions as virtuous), I was laying out an argument that I saw life as an one-off opportunity to change the world, and since I have not achieved this yet, I couldn't rest.

Though it may sound a bit crazy and overtly quixotic, it is exactly what I believe. In the end, she told me I was too much of a dreamer, something which lots of people told me before. I used to treat this as a compliment, but I am now getting older and started regarding it a problem. If I am granted a wish today, I would want to be more practical. But, it is one of those things - if I am practical, I should not expect wishes to be granted; Instead, I am trying to team up, in business ventures and other projects, with people who are my polar opposites, just to keep my optimism in check. In the end, however, I don't still want to give up my dreams to change the world, at least till I get so old that I can't do anything anymore.

However, reflecting back on the discussion, I know I was making the wrong point. The question was happiness, not what I do in life. While I can't rest till I feel I am doing something meaningful, it does not necessarily imply that I am not happy. It is just that my happy state does not preclude hard work or risk - just think of those who feel happy with dinghy sailing - and it certainly does not look like resting. Yes, I seem to want to go back to past, and be able to enjoy a winter morning sitting on the terrace of my home in Calcutta and would regard that as a perfect moment, but only if this is a moment in life and not the permanent state of my life. I shall consider that as perfect laziness, rather than perfect happiness. Instead, I have things to be done, miles to go before I sleep.

And, finally, I feel perfectly happy now. This is the answer I should have given to my interlocutor. She may have thought I am unhappy because I said I am at a point of departure now, and started to think seriously what I do next. But my point was missed: I may not continue to work for the same employer for too long, but I have made my choice - to build a global higher education organisation - and feel perfectly happy with that. It may not be possible to achieve what I want to do in the current workplace, and I must look beyond, but this does not mean any conflict or lack of happiness: It just means that I must move on at some point of time.

I have done this before. In a way, my resume may look non-linear, I moved from job to job in every two to three years (the longest I did in one job is three and half years in my twenty year working life), but I can easily show all of those to be a part of one narrative. My ambition remained consistent: I wanted to see the world, I wanted to live a life full of intelligent conversations and exploration of ideas, and I wanted to do something which makes life better for people I served. This blog, written over six years now, has that same story written over and over again, as I moved through three different jobs: People who knew me from my school or college days would tell the same story. I shall claim that I have always been a perfectly steady state - a consistent pursuit of a singular goal - though this meant I had to do different things, learn different subjects and live in different countries.

In the end, then, here is my definition of happiness: Having a meaningful goal to live for, and being able to work towards it all my life. I can't complain - I have been able to do so for twenty years now without much disruption. And, above all, being able to define life with what I aspire to do, rather than where I work or what I own, is a blessing in itself. This is my pursuit of happiness: Being steadfast in the pursuit of a dream. Dreaming is an act of happy state of mind, I should have known.

No comments:

Popular Posts

How To Live

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Last Words

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

Creative Commons License

AddThis