A few years ago I heard an NPR segment on a research conducted to find the happiest nations. I don’t recall what criteria were used to determine the results, I don’t even remember who the winners were. But we, the United States, did not make the cut – shocking. The fact that we are one of the wealthiest nations in the world is fodder for another blog, so I will not digress. What did stick this unsurprising news in my mind, however, was when the researcher explained what is happy about us… Our feet. We are a nation of happy feet. A nation constantly in search of happiness.
I’ve thought, often, of that segment. We leave home, state, country, religion, job, career, culture, beliefs, relationships, anything and everything in search of happiness. In fact, it seems that we are not happy unless we’re searching for happiness. It’s just around the next corner; in the next office; up the next level; on the next block; with the next award; down the next aisle; after the next experience; by the next purchase; at the next… Fill in the blank.
What about me? I have a nice roof over my head. I have a roommate who’s become my best friend. I have a puppy who loves to cuddle with me. My car is still running. I have a master’s degree that enables me to do what I love. I teach at the undergraduate level, a dream I had since I was young. I get paid to counsel, another fulfilled dream. I’m surrounded by a community of wonderful professionals who help me in my career. I love my church. I have a series of godly women who pour love and wisdom into my life. I’m blessed by a body of believers in my small group who keep me accountable. I have the freedom to continuously receive the truth of the Gospel from faithful men. I have opportunities to be creative. I’m constantly encouraged and motivated in my writing (especially by one friend’s determination and endless projects). My family is healthy, saved, and well. I have a great relationship with my siblings. I talk to my parents several times a week. I’ve been blessed with friendships I wouldn’t trade for anything. And though I’m at a time of my life that is scary and uncertain, with many areas hanging in the balance, I am at peace for God is producing so much growth and fruit in me.
And…Yet… My not so little feet are not so happy. They are itching. They are longing to take the first anything to anywhere but here. They are eager to cross these boundaries and go where no ME has gone before. They are plotting to trek me on an expedition in search of… I don’t even know… But I find myself wanting to get lost in all places but where I am. There is a voice of discontentment rising up from my sole, whispering, “Go! Do something else! Live somewhere else! Be someone else! Someone more than you are right now!” And I want to listen. After all, I owe more on my house than it’s worth; I want a husband, not a roommate; my dog came prepackaged with “extra grace required” lessons; My 13-year-old car’s temperamental AC does not make good South Florida driving conditions; I owe thousands in school loans for my fancy degree; I don’t have a full time job, but work part time gigs at more than full time hours for which I am paid peanuts; working often gets in the way of time I could spend living; my determined friend and I have suffered many blows from doors closed to our creativity; I live 1200 miles away from home and have not seen my mom in a year…
So why not pick up and go? Why hang around here? Why not try the next corner of the world? It’s been my dream to travel. I’ve wanted to teach abroad for 10 years now. Why not use this time to get that doctorate over with? Everyone says I should.
The truth is, I’m having a hard time drawing the line between motivation and discontentment. I’m still struggling to just “be happy” where I am. In light of all the wonderful things, I’m still longing for the next thing.