The other day I went for coffee with a friend of mine. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing. I was helping him out with a ride to his car and neither of us had anywhere to be, so lattes seemed the natural thing to do.
The weather had been edging on spring all week. It’s the time of the year where you start to ditch your winter jacket for something a little lighter, even though you’ll still layer a hoodie or two underneath. You stop worrying about leaving your gloves at home or if you have a toque nearby.
But this evening it was slipping back to the inevitable cold snap that won’t give up before Spring truly arrives. The sky was grey and the clouds were chattering about dropping some snow on our recently visible city streets. The situation seemed bleak and we were both tired.
Our conversation meandered around a bit before eventually settling into the always entertaining ‘how are we almost 30 and can’t pay our bills?’ territory. We’re both professionals, out of school for a while now, and still we struggle. Its nothing new, I’m sure. I’ve been told time and time again that in your 20s is when you struggle and in your late 20s you feel like you should have your life together, but rarely you do. So, I know I’m not alone in the fight.
We sat on our bar stools, gazing out the front window as traffic paused and flowed, and pedestrians, with their head down to the ever strengthening wind, rushed down the street, likely headed anywhere but outside. We carried on our equally gloomy dissection of the lives of the young professional.
“I want a vacation this summer”
“I want a motorcycle”
“I just don’t want to decide what I’m ordering based on price”
“I just want fresh vegetables”
“I guess we can pre-drink more before we go out?”
But then I started to wonder “Are we just expecting too much?” I mean, are we just entitled millenials who grew up cushy and now we don’t want to live modestly for a while? I think in a lot of ways this is true, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier. And when the situation isn’t easy we start looking forward, next month it’ll be better, once I have money it’ll be easier, if I could just get to the summer everything will be good.
Before long the lattes had been drank and it was nearly 8pm. Neither of us had eaten. It was time to go. I dropped him at his car and headed home.
When I arrived in my apartment my mind wandered around our discussion, eventually landing on ‘how do we start to live in a way where we are satisfied with the ‘now’?’ Especially if it seems imperfect in our eyes. And how do we stop focusing on this unreachable horizon of ‘just a little bit more’ and I’ll be content.
I feel so often we base our happiness or contentment or even perception of success on the next big thing coming around the corner. “If I could just make $500 more a month” we said while watching the first snowflakes fall, “then it would be easier.”
And maybe it would be easier. But just as soon as you get it, you’d spend it and want 500 more dollars every month because you aren’t satisfied with where you’re at.
Now, I do know that there is a correlation between happiness and the amount of money you earn (to a point), but a lot of it comes down to security. If you aren’t worried about being able to pay for food every month you will obviously be happier, but after the necessities are taken care of, statistically speaking, money doesn’t improve happiness.
But let’s refocus. When I came home my mind started to think about happiness in general and how we are always striving for the future but rarely ever are we satisfied with the now. It’s easy to project the future as being perfect: I’ll lose the weight, I’ll have more friends, I’ll find love, I’ll buy a new car, the list goes on. So why must we look at now and only focus on the things we don’t have?
I find I’m in a cycle of this right now. A cycle of wanting. Especially things that are, in every way, out of my reach. I get lost in the idea of having things and situations and relationships exactly as I want them, no compromises. But this is unrealistic and I think it steals joy from your life. It muddies the good things you do have.
So instead, I’ll do things that enliven my spirit. I’ll be happy for what I have. I’ll work to simplify. I’ll focus on what is really impactful to my happiness. And I’ll be thankful for those I have in my life that I care for and trust. And, well, I don’t know what else I’ll do, but I’ll be mindful of where my mind wanders and I’ll just keep dragging it back to reality. At least for now.