I believe in joy. After all, who doesn’t? And yet so often joy is something we think of as elusive.
Joy is the mirage we chase our whole lives — always searching for it around the next corner, the next raise, the next promotion.
Soon, we think. Soon I’ll have everything I could possibly want.
Soon I’ll have everything I need to be happy.
And then we get the job or the raise or the promotion — and inevitably it doesn’t turn out like we’d expected.
We might be angry or frustrated. We might even feel betrayed.
There was a time in my life when I felt betrayed.
I felt like the way we talk about success and happiness in America had betrayed me, had led me down the wrong path — a path that had promised happiness but had ultimately left me mired in misery.
That time was post-MIT when I’d sunk everything into pursuing a dream only to look up and wonder whose dream it was that I was chasing.
I’d wrecked myself on sleepless nice and a ceaseless cascade of stress — and in the end it seemed that my suffering had bought me only what I didn’t want: a desk job I didn’t love, a paycheck I didn’t spend, and life in a city I dreamed of escaping.
And for a while, I felt betrayed. Angry. Hurt. Bitter. Exhausted.
That misery was the fork in my road, the moment in which I had to decide whether I thought that joy ultimately lay just a little farther down the path or whether I was going to have to venture off into parts unknown in order to find it.
I was pretty sure that joy didn’t lay farther ahead down the same well-worn path — but the problem was I was afraid to venture off the path.
I was afraid I might get lost.
But here’s the thing. I’ve been venturing off the path for a while now — in some ways for years.
And joy isn’t out there in the woods somewhere and joy isn’t on the path.
Joy is locked away in your own heart and the easiest way to find it is to stop looking and notice.
I can say this because I still haven’t moved far from the path.
I’m still working a desk job that increasingly I find I enjoy.
I’m still living in a city I wish I could move out of — but increasingly I find that the city is also beautiful in it’s own impenetrable way.
I realize now that I volunteered myself for suffering because I wanted the world to approve of me and of my choices — and I’ve learned that the only approval I really need is my own.
And you know what? The magic of it is that often these days I’m just ridiculously grateful and happy.
So often these days I just sit quietly and feel myself marinating in joy.
And what I’m learning now is that when you find joy within yourself first, it stops seeming so scary to venture off the path.