Growing up does not mean learning to settle. It’s time we start expecting happiness.
A scene in the film Me and You and Everyone We Know—a quirky love story about a lonely shoe salesman and an equally lonely artist—shows the artist in the store where the salesman works, waiting while a friend shops.
The shoe salesman glances at the artist’s shoes and asks, “Are those comfortable?”
She says, “I guess so. I mean, they kind of rub my ankles, but all shoes do that. I have low ankles.”
He looks her in the eye and says, “You think you deserve that pain, but you don’t.”
You think you deserve that pain, but you don’t.
Too many of us go through life quietly enduring things that make us unhappy. We tolerate jobs that cut into our well-being. We stay in roles that rub and chafe and wear away at our happiness. In short, we settle.
A few years ago, while eating lunch with my colleagues in our corporate cafeteria, I looked around the room at everyone and then turned to my coworker. I asked, “Do you think these people are happy?”
He replied, “Right now they are.”
“In general, though,” I said. “Do you think they’re happy?”
He stared at me. “Do you really think anybody is happy with their job?”
And there it was.
We grow up dreaming of being astronauts and princesses. We’re told we can achieve anything we want. We’re promised the world and permitted to dream beyond its limits. But at some point along the way, we abandon the concept of happiness completely. We build lifestyles of cubicles and commutes. We do what we think we should.
And then we wake up on Monday morning filled with dread and think it would be ludicrous to expect otherwise.
“Nobody likes their job,” we justify, “so I shouldn’t expect to, either.”
The salesman in the film goes on to say, “People think foot pain is a fact of life. Life is actually better than that.”
The artist’s friend adds, “Your whole life could be better, starting right now.”
Your whole life can be better.
You deserve to face Monday with something more than despair. You deserve to feel excited about something more than Friday evening. You deserve to love your job. You deserve to feel that your happiness still counts. Because it does.
Happiness should be a standard that life decisions are measured against, and any decision that undermines your happiness should be regarded as a poor one.
Don’t bind yourself up in a mortgage if you’re going to use it as an excuse to stay in a job you hate. Don’t move to a city you hate for a job you hate just because it pays well. Don’t arrange your life so that you work an hour from home if you’re going to spend the commute missing your children grow up.
Do not settle for shoes that hurt your feet.
Do not justify a job that pains you in other ways.
Happiness is a basic necessity. Expect happiness—and then figure out how to get it.
To borrow one last line from the movie, “I am prepared for amazing things to happen.”
I deserve it. You do, too.
Krista Goral is an IT consultant by day and doubles down as a writer, blogger and philosopher/doer by night. She explores the everyday human experience on her blog, Response Crafting.