I was walking around Barnes and Noble after having bought a delicious Pumpkin Spice frappucino. It is life changing! Okay, maybe not life changing but still very good. My brother and I were just meandering around, as we always do. We went through the fiction section and discussed Hemingway. We walked by a display table of Harry Potter novels where my brother lamented that his childhood hero’s journey had come to an end. We moved our way through each section like sharks swimming through a school of fish. We would pick up a chosen food source in the biography section or, my personal favorite, the philosophy section.
I perused through the philosophy section and we talked about the concepts of heaven and hell, right and wrong, existence and perception until our cups yelled with every sip from the straw, signaling its emptiness.
We decided to call it a day and we started to leave but I had to stop. I looked in front of me and an entire wall, maybe 40 feet, was dedicated to self-help. One section was about finding your identity, another talked about how to get ahead in a lackluster job/relationship/life, and another was filled with books that all managed to say the same thing: “How To Be Happy.”
I was dumbfounded; however, my brother couldn’t see the point and walked on.
I looked at these books that were yelling at me through large titles on their covers. “The Happiness Project” was one that interested me most. I think I have become a bit cynical about happiness. Not in the fact that it is an important emotion but that it has a formula. I am a firm believer that there is no formula for happiness.
I understand this woman went through a series of events that she transcribed and used to help her get closer to happiness. Maybe it worked, maybe it didn’t.
I looked further on at all of the titles and I kept thinking, “Are we really this unhappy?” I thought, “Are these people telling us they know the secret that we don’t?”
I thought, “Is this me they are speaking to?”
I must admit that there is a struggle between two realities. The reality of being a grad student and the one of being a Graduate Teaching Assistant. I focused more on being a good teacher instead of being a good student and it cost me a good grade on a test in one of my classes. I haven’t had a poor grade in years and this came as a blow to my self-esteem. I was upset for days. I wondered if I was capable of this. I wondered if I was in over my head. I wondered if this was all a mistake.
There is always that part of you that keeps asking your subconscious mind, “Is this it? Have you finally found your limit?” I think it is only natural, I suppose.
My mind was preoccupied hour after hour about it. That was until I saw a picture of my best friend’s baby girl. She is a beautiful bundle of cuteness. I think it finally hit me then about the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”
Throughout the next few days, everyone was using the metaphor. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was some sign from above. I thought long and hard about the metaphor. I was fascinated by it and consumed by it. That is when the lens that was out of focus began to stabilize. I finally saw the picture clearly.
I was so wrapped up in these few sets of trees that it caused me to miss out on the rest of the forest. This poor grade and how hard all of this is pales in comparison to the other trees that surround them.
I look at the vastness of my forest and it excites me and entices me. The trees; I want to climb them all. I want to run through my forest from edge to edge but I know I must seek life one tree at a time. Right now the leaves are beautiful and green but one day they will turn amber and finally bare.
I stepped back and realized how much I have outside of this problem that preoccupied me. There is a life that is here and meant to be lived. I may allow myself to be bummed about a bad grade but I have to wonder what its butterfly effect will be. Is this going to cause me to be unable to meet “the one”. Will I not own a house because of this or backpack around Europe?
Will this burn down my forest?
I am proud to say: no.
I look back on my life and see the trees. Each one represents just how well I have lived it. The good and the bad. I want to make this forest a national park. I want to make it the Amazon rainforest. Not every tree is good but from them comes the seeds of future trees.
Those books on the wall of happiness tell you some sort of formula that you should employ to become a happier person. Better than you are. Yet, they wrote and published these books about finding happiness and they sell them to those that truly need it for profit.
Some look for happiness and how to find a mate by way of the written word but I would say that you should look at your own forest. Not the tree in front of you. Climb out of the redwood you are stuck in and plant a new tree. Then step back and watch it grow as you add on to your forest.
Life is about…
I was going to write something up there but that would be hypocrisy, wouldn’t it? Maybe those three little dots say more than I can here. Yeah, I like that.
Life is just about.
I hope you find a way to let go of those small events and see the big picture because acceptance of self and life are what make it all worth living.
Let go. Just let go and you can begin to see it all. Happiness comes not to those who seek it but to those that accept it. Happiness never leaves you. It is nowhere to be found in some formula. Accepting that it is okay to be happy in your situation is what is important. You have no reason not to be happy except the one you give yourself. It is always there in the forest.
Let go of those trees and accept it.
Happiness just is.
And life is about…