When I was young I pursued happiness. Now I pursue Joy.
Yesterday, I happened upon an article written in 2013 about there being more to life than happiness. While reading this all of my last conversations with my brother about legacy and what he wanted to leave behind came rushing back.
There's More to Life Than Being Happy: Meaning comes from the pursuit of more complex things than happiness
Like many young people, I sub-consciously equated happiness with wealth and success. It was not until I experienced deep personal loss that I changed my pursuit from happiness to meaning or purpose. There is something about losing someone very close to you, that makes you aware of just how short life is and aware of your own mortality. At age 31 when I lost my brother age 30 [my longest and maybe closest relationship at the time] to Glioblastoma Multiforme Stage IV, everything changed. Not only do you grieve the loss, you question your own existence. Why him and not me? He has two little kids, and I have no children -- is there anyway I can trade places? The only way I managed to carry on, was finding my purpose and leaning on my faith.
Happiness vs. Joy
In the years following my brother's death, I changed my career, my life and my focus. Some people lose their faith through tragedy, but mine strengthened. I went through a deep searching process to find fulfillment and meaning in my life rather than pursuing happiness and 'success.' I took my time to determine what things to pursue, rather than making Pro and Con list. I employed St. Ignatius of Loyala's discernment process that has been used for many years when one contemplates vocation. This process considers what brings me deep comfort and 'consolation' as opposed to what makes me feel dry like a desert or 'desolate'. In the end I decided that work as a teacher-librarian was worth my pursuit. The discernment process brought such peace about this major decision that I consider this process in most decisions I make.
More articles on the discernment process
- How Ignatian Spirituality Gives Us a Way to Discern God’s Will
- An Ignatian Framework for Making a Decision
After the loss, there was a pulling away at first from loved ones ... a distancing, but now I know what brings me comfort -- giving love to my family, giving time to my family, making a difference in the lives of others -- my students, my faculty and my school.
'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' Acts 20:35