Until recently, I was in a job I didn’t like and was very unhappy. And the unhappiness in my workday took so much time and energy that I wasn’t really happy in any other part of my life. In fact, I pretty much had no other life. But I was going to stay in that job until I could “figure out what I want to do instead”. I was blessed to have the choice taken out of my hands when I was laid off. (The fact that I had recently enlisted my friends to join me in praying and affirming that I would be laid off soon with a good severance package is a story for another time.)
I know that many people work in jobs they hate. They are unhappy, but they stay because they are waiting. In just a few more years they will have enough money to retire, or they will receive the promised rewards for working for the right number of years, or their kids will be out of college, or things will get better, or something else will happen that will set them free.
I was waiting for inspiration on a new career direction. And I was afraid. But now, with a bit of time and perspective (and, okay, a good severance package and some very good counseling), I see how foolish it can be to postpone happiness. That’s not to say that personal happiness should take priority over everything – responsibility for feeding one’s children, for instance. But I do think sometimes we put off any happiness at all, even small opportunities for joy, because of an out-of-balance sense of responsibility or an inability to realize that life can change on a dime.
I will never forget my father trying to impress this on me after my mother had a debilitating stroke which left her unable to function alone and him in the role of caregiver for the rest of her life. He said then, “Don’t put off having fun and being happy.” I listened while he talked of all the plans they had made for a later which never came, but I’m just now beginning to internalize the lesson.
I only hope I have the time – and the courage – to put it into practice.