Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Your Path to Happiness (not someone else's)

When I was 12 my family moved to South Carolina, my mother's hometown. For the first time in my life I got to see my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and other extended family almost every day instead of just on the holidays. I loooved it. But even at the age of 12 I knew my time in South Carolina was temporary. I didn't like the slow-moving, country lifestyle. Sure, it's fun for vacation, but long-term.... not my thing. So I worked hard and went to college in DC, traveled across the US during the summer (Chicago, Philly, LA, New Orleans, Minneapolis, etc), and then moved to Los Angeles when I graduated. (Before landing right back in DC).

Meanwhile... my sister is a year younger than me and is extremely smart, friendly and outgoing. She went to college in South Carolina and at the relatively young age of 24 is one month away from her marriage. She has no desire -that I know of- to leave South Carolina and has a much more pronounced Southern accent than I do (I wish I could pull it out when I get pulled over). I used to encourage her to move up to DC or at least visit more often. I was just soooo sure that when she saw a taste of the big city life, that she'd realize one sushi place in the entire county is just not the way to live.

But I was wrong. When she came to visit DC, she was overwhelmed by the crowds and the filth. She was also dismayed by the lack of sweet tea. She was all too relieved to go back home.

But guess what? My sister is... happy. She's the mother to a gorgeous little girl, engaged to the love of her life, and has a strong network of friends and family.

Inversely, here in DC, where you can eat all types of food, meet all types of people , I know a lot of people who complain about the inability to find love, the skyrocketing cost of living, people's rudeness, and who generally seem disgruntled about their lives.

What does this mean?
That everyone in a busy metropolis could find happiness if they left the urban sprawl? Not exactly. Anyone that knows me (or reads my blog) knows I love it here and have no plans of heading anywhere further South, especially not South Carolina. But living in DC and traveling to other cities/countries, is what makes me happy. I can't project that onto others.

Overall, we believe that the well-traveled, the "cultured", people with artifacts from around the world, but no domestic obligations like a terrible two or a monotonous 9 - 5 are living the life. These are the people we look to with admiration and sometimes even envy.

Maybe we've got it wrong. I half-jokingly told a friend of mine the other day, "Everyone doesn't want to go see the Pyramids... some people are ok with a picture." It seems hard to fathom to folks like me, but as I get older, I'm starting to realize the value in those little things we're quick to discount as traditional, old-fashioned or outdated.

The feminist movement almost made it illegal for me to say this, but I can guarantee you there are some single women over 40 who are grateful for their multiple degrees, full passport, and professional experiences, but who would trade some of that in for a family.

I say that everyone can benefit from at least a little exposure to something different. But to consider those who'd rather visit Paris through a novel or Thailand with a set of chopsticks, "ignorant and naive" is unfair. I've decided not to judge folks for their choices and I hope you can too.

What do you think? Is happiness a luxury for a select few or can we all find it in our own way?