Happiness Project: How Did I Get Here? Part Two (the answer is nightmares, robots & perfectionism)
It’s a dark Tuesday morning. 5:00 a.m. – the alarm goes off. Your husband (or whoever) groans and rolls out of bed. You jump up and throw on the workout clothes you laid out the night before. Or maybe in this vision you have kids, so you go wake them and begin mentally preparing for the Battle of Shoe Choices. Perhaps you have a dog to walk or a cat to feed. Maybe you have TEN KIDS, in which case, just stay in bed. You deserve it. They can dress themselves and find the bus stop, I’m sure.
Whichever case, your morning is jam-packed. By 7:00 a.m. you’re rushing out to the car, ready to begin your commute. You arrive at your office just in time to endure an 8-10 hour day of meetings, computer screens, and business politics sprinkled with 30 minutes or so of enjoyable, invigorating work. You get home around 5:00 p.m. ready for a juice box and a NAP.
But, you’re a responsible adult and you have mouths to feed (even if it’s just your own) Chores to do. Perhaps you’re trying to talk yourself into mustering up the energy to be social OR go to the gym OR spend time on that hobby you’ve really been wanting to get started for the past 5 years.
By 9 or 10 or 11 p.m., your head hits the pillow (when’s the last time you washed your sheets?) and your body fills with dread as you think about doing it all again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
For my 25th birthday, I’m starting a Happiness Project because this vision is my nightmare.
It’s not the early wake up call, the responsibilities or even the dirty bed sheets in my nightmare vision that terrify me. I fear a passive life, a life where 20 years of “climbing the ladder” fly by, yet my dreams feel just as out of reach as they did at 25. I fear that the Nick who lives inside of me will beat the Amy. (You did the required reading, right? RIGHT?)
Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project began as she wondered, “what do I truly want out of life?” Her answer was not unlike many of ours- to be happy- but she realized she spent almost no time thinking about her own happiness.
Mine’s happening a little differently.
Turns out, I spend a lot of time thinking about my own happiness. Too much. In the past year, I’ve contemplated, researched or considered applying to grad school for numerous potential career paths that I thought would make me happiest… there’s event planning, higher education, human resources, journalism, marketing, project management, dropping everything to act, dropping everything (including acting) to explore the country in an RV and dropping everything (including acting AND the RV) to spend the rest of my years lying in a dark, damp cave rocking back and forth in the fetal position.
This is the scariest part of the nightmare vision I’ve created for myself- how do I prevent becoming a mindless corporate suburban zombie robot if I’m not even sure of what kind of robot I want to be instead?
My past year of much-contemplation-plus-little-action helped me discover I might be living my life as the version of myself I perceive those who I love want me to be. And, I’m tired of being that robot. Because you know what the people I love really want? For me to stop calling them mid panic-attack as the stress of trying to do and be it all consumes me.
To design the life lived full of intention, meaning and purpose that I so desperately desire, I have to let go of the perfectionism that stops me from making a firm decision, that inhibits me from finishing anything, that fills my brain with thoughts of “not good enough.”
It makes me feel extremely silly and small to admit that writing all of this out and publishing it scares me. Voluntarily sharing that my life isn’t perfect, that I’m not perfect, scares me. The fact that not being perfect scares me REALLY SCARES ME.
Rationally, I know it’s all sorts of screwed up and weird and that humans don’t want to be around perfect people. Yet, here I am, rewriting and editing this post (and the first few posts of this series) more times than I can count. And now I’m feeling more nervous about sharing that I’ve rewritten and edited this countless times, because what if you read it and think, “GOSH. This is her edited version? This wasn’t just a random self-grandiose thought stream she typed out and decided to publish? Someone get this girl into a writing class.” …Jeez.
This is the type of behavior, hesitation and fear that I am trying to stomp out of myself. It’s unproductive and debilitating. The 7 year old who needed her school supplies to be lined up in her desk just rightwasn’t as terrifying as the 25 year old who can’t make a firm commitment because what if there’s a more perfect choice out there? Who can’t finish a project because perfect is never done.
A Happiness Project could be the solution. It could also be a giant flop. And who cares? It’s something. It’s starting. It’s doing. It’s me finally deciding to be the guy who WILL jump into something even if I don’t know what’s going to happen. I want to be an Amy.