I never want to work a day in my life. I don’t want to find a job. I don’t want to awake each morning bemoaning the drudgery of my not-exactly-chosen profession. I do not ever want to walk into a room of relative strangers that I barely know and do my best to avoid any interaction with them Yes, it is true I don’t want a job. I want to play and just happen to get paid for it.
You might think me mad. You might think this idealistic view on life is childish or foolish, unrealistic or impractical. You might mumble to yourself “He is a French Major after all.” Or perhaps you might believe that my view on life has been shaped by some serial abuse of caffeine. Some older and wiser might say that “life is a game and you have to win, you don’t win by playing around.” I’ve heard people say over and over again, when you grow up you have to get a real job. What does that mean? If getting a real job means I’ll be miserable, I say no thanks.
Growing up I often heard a religious ideology spoken, “Men are that they might have joy.” In other words, our entire existence is about happiness, and not just fleeting momentary happiness but joy, a lasting contentment and bliss. This concept hasn’t been lost to the greatest minds of our world. The founding fathers of this nation included the pursuit of happiness in the declaration of independence as a basic motivation for our dissension from the British Empire. Maslow first began to address to study of happiness in psychology around the mid-twentieth century as he developed his revolutionary table of needs. Einstein found that the violin, reading, and not wearing socks brought him simple joys on a daily basis and furthered his work. It is said that he first began to formulate his theory of relativity while playing a concerto barefoot in his living room.
But what brings us this joy? What allows each individual to rise above the mundane and benign existence? Is it work? Is it a career? I believe that we find true happiness when live each moment to the fullest seeking out that spark of life that ignites our true passion. I believe we find joy when we fail in the attempt to achieve something greater than us only to discover not that our efforts were in vain but that we were right on target and just needed to shoot a bit further. I believe that we find our passion as we continually take risks knowing that failure will, in the end, catch up to us but that failure will be provide a sweet moment of nirvana when we realize that our shortcomings are in fact only stepping stones on a journey towards joy.
I have failed all too often in life. In fact I have had to accept my own laziness and inability to perform at par more often than I care to admit. For many of you, namely the uber driven, that kind of failure is simply unacceptable. I envy your drive for perfection, at least that variety of perfection. For me it has been a glorious learning process or perhaps even an unlearning process. I certainly don’t have the highest GPA in the room, frankly it’s only mediocre at best. I don’t have the greatest study habits either. I happened to score rather well on my IQ test as a young boy and began to presume that I should simply get by based upon my evident superior intellect and killer good looks.
I have bounced from one end of the employment spectrum to the next with rich enthusiasm for the experience that each new venture would provide. The list is long. I have been an assembly line worker, a lawn maintenance guy, an arby’s drive through operator, a missionary, an ice cream machine repair man, a caterer, a personal assistant, an executive assistant, and administrative assistant and an office assistant. I have worked in social services, retail, call centers, been a master barista and a certified designated trainer server. I have been a translator and interpreter a tutor and a manny. I have been a teacher, a facilitator and a program director. I have been a manager, a grunt, a supervisor, a business owner and even a licensed general contractor. I have worked with Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, and Allen Cummings, Margret Cho and Paris Hilton. I have built a winery, planned lavish weddings, and even held a license as a wedding officiant. I have been a dog breeder and trainer. I have been a behaviorist, a therapist and seriously ventured into foster parenting. . I have been a dancer, an actor, a funeral singer, a church chorister., and youth leader. I have worked with the air force, the navy, the army, the marines and the coast guard. I am an eagle scout and I still go to summer camp every year. I have traveled through Europe, Africa, the United States and walked along the Great Wall of China, trod along the beaches of the Caribbean, and attended conferences at the United Nations in Geneva. I have lived a million lives in the attempt to find the one or at least the few that matter most to me.
I don’t say any of this to brag or boast. Many of these adventures were phenomenal learning experiences and many were abysmal displays of my young and foolish heart and lack of experience. The greatest lesson that I have learned is that joy is the greatest ambition of them all. I don’t need things I need to continue to experience life and all its wonders. I need to see, touch, feel, and live the adventures of this great race called humanity and embrace the imperfection and the beauty of it all. I have come to learn that finding joy is not a matter of where I am or who I am surrounded by or the things that I have my joy is completely dependant upon my own frame of mind and nothing more. I am the author of my destiny and my ecstasy.
I was just 19 when I first went to live on my own in a foreign country with little independent experience to build upon. I was the eldest in my family and therefore I had certain expectations. I learned very quickly that my new housemates were not to keen on following my orders, nor were they as clean as my mother had always taught me to be. The culture was drastically different and the experience was ruined by my image of what it should be. I went to my mentor and begged him to let me go home. I had had enough and this three week experience was sufficient, I would be more than content to return to my manageable routine back in sunny southern California. He starred at me. He was a rough, abrupt, and frank rancher from northern Arizona. He called things the way he saw them and didn’t care too much about feelings or tact. He stood about the same height as me but had the built of man that had been throwing hay bails his whole life. He was intimidating. But when he spoke I listened.
“Are you happy?” He asked me. I looked back at him quizzically unsure if he had heard what I had just said about my thus far miserable experience. I responded, “Well, of course not.” As if his question made no sense whatsoever, which it didn’t, at the time. He waited and moment, contemplated his response, then reached out his hand with his thick and callused fingers. I shook his hand, or rather he squeezed the very life out of my teenage grip. He held on and said, “Then change it, change your attitude.”
I’m fairly certain I rolled my eyes, exhaled like an irreverent teenager, then slouched my shoulders as if to say, “I really want to stomp my feet right now and scream because I’m not getting my way but I’ve only recently learned that’s inappropriate.” I followed him with my gaze as he walked out of the room. Just before he exited he said, “The aim of this life is to find happiness, all other things are but a means to this end.” I don’t know if he was quoting someone but it’s been nearly 15 years since that moment and then lesson has never been more relevant than right now. He helped me shape an outlook on life that has led me to this very place and I am the man that I am today because of that adolescent moment in my own life history.
In my own pursuit of happiness I have come to find my own greatest asset is my infinitely creative mind. I have the capacity to be or do anything I set my mind to. I’m nothing exceptional. I’m no different than any of you. I am perhaps even less adept than some of you are at being this sort of chameleon in life. However, my creativity has afforded me some of my most fond memories but it has also helped me to find my passion in life and in turn discover joy.
So back to that whole “I’m never going to get a job” thing. I believe that a job is something that is mindless, and effortless, but drains you of everything that brings joy. A job is monotonous, painful, and boring. I understand that there are many “jobs” that must be done that might actually be work. I don’t particularly enjoy cleaning my car but it’s a job I have to do. My friend, Marcus, on the other hand finds great satisfaction in cleaning and detailing his car at least weekly. He will spend hours at a time with nothing more than armorall and a q-tip in hand going over ever seam and crevice in his vehicle ensuring that not a spec of dust, nor crumb of mcdonald’s chicken mcnuggets lie anywhere in that vehicle. Then he will painstakingly wash out the engine and shine the chrome therein. I can honestly say his vehicle looks like something that could be in a Las Vegas show room. Marcus, loves his work. Detailing cars is what he does for fun and he happens to get paid for it too. Nothing brings him greater joy than his emaculate vehicle.
About 50 years ago a young boy sat in a music classroom in Liverpool. Paul and his mate George we’re like any other mischevious twelve-year-olds, there wasn’t much exceptional about who they were, especially in the mind of the absent instructor. He would walk into the lecture each week ready to impress the morays of classical music upon their young minds. He’d place the grammaphone at the head of the classroom and put on a record of Brahms or Mozart, perhaps even Wagner or Puccini, then leave the room to go smoke a bit. There was no instruction there and the values of music were forgotten. As soon as their teacher left the classroom the boys would bring out the cigarettes and paying cards, turn off the music, and enjoy the break. It wasn’t until about 4 years later that the two boys found something in music that they had never before heard in that classroom. Paul McCartney and George Harrisson were never seen as any sort of music prodigy but they soon join forces with a few other mates and changed the face of music in the world as the Beatles. Both men are still in their prime, filled with the joy that their passion for music brings them. And they happen to be worth millions.
There are as many personalities and career options in the world as there are people. This world takes all kinds of people. So why then to we force ourselves into the social norms that obstruct and limit our potential? Why do we feel it necessary to conform to the wishes of the few and become a member of the drones of many that are working day to day at something that only pays the bills?
Each and everyone one of will be asked time and time again, “so now what? “ You’re a college graduate, what are you going to do with a French Major? A degree in philosophy or art? What kind of job will you get with a masters in social work? You know they don’t make very much money, right? What engineering firms have you applied to? You got a degree in General Studies? What does that even mean? Well the answer is simple.
Dream and dream big. Dreaming enables the mind to wonder and explore possibilities. Dreaming leads to inspiring movements of lasting impact. Dreaming is a wish, a hope, a longing that someday you will make reality. So dream of a better solution to the economic crisis. Dream of a better method to address social change. Dream of a more effective technology to improve education. Dream of the perfect tale to inspire good. Dream of the idea that will change the world we live in. Dream of all that brings you joy and pursue that dream in all that you do. Live your dreams
I’m going to do what I’ve always done. I’m going to keep trying to find joy and for every failure I will embrace the learning experience and do my best to seek happiness. I will combine my love of theatre, music and performing with my passion for learning and education. Yes you can teach geometry, physics, and art on a stage. Yes you can instill the value of creativity through the application of chemistry and biology. I will dream in order to find joy and happiness each and every day.
Men and women through out our history have dreamt of the world we would one day live in. We live in that world. We live in a world where vehicles fly. They fly in the sky, 6 miles in the sky. We walked in space. We live in a world where polio, small pox, malaria, chicken pox, yellow fever, and many other disease are so close to eradication it is palpable. We live in a world where you can electronically send and receive the entire text of the holy bible, the full HD version of Avatar and even the entire musical library of Michael Jackson in a matter of minutes. That same amount of information, approximately 6 gigabytes can fit on a tiny USB drive in your pocket. Five gigabytes of electronic storage used to require an entire room full of computers and servers. Today artists, photographers, writers and poets are doing more, with greater ease, getting greater recognition, and making more innovations then their counterparts even 50 years ago even thought possible. This world is changing because people are dreaming of happiness and pursuing that which brings them joy. Dreams, joy, happiness… these are the things that motivated those that have gone before. Dreams, joy, happiness, this is what will empower our generation to make this life worth living and to change the ways of the past in the hope of a brighter future.
Eleanor Roosevelt said that “The future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams.” So, my peers, my friends… DREAM ON! FIND JOY! Live the life that you’ve imagined. Find the life that brings you the greatest happiness and live it. Never work a day in your life again but vow to sweat and muscle, strive and labor your way through every waking moment that in that moment you will dine joy and happiness that through that labor your dreams will come true. If you follow your heart you will find that the opportunities will unfold and that existence you have pursued will bring you happiness, success, and joy – true lasting, lifelong joy.