Success vs. Happiness

Earlier today, I found myself walking through Park Slope with a yoga mat slung over one shoulder, Longchamp bag over the other, drinking coconut water I bought at a natural foods market, talking on my iPhone on my way to a nearby Tea shop to write (for free) as I waited for Yoga to begin. Because I’m “finding” myself.

When I have moments like this, I am not sure whether to think/shout “what is wrong with my life!?!?!” or “Everything is right with my life!”

There was a time, not too very long ago, where I served a purpose in a professional setting. It was, very naturally, how I measured my life’s success and contributions to the world.

I popped by my old office yesterday to say hello to former co-workers/current awesome people. Whereas the tangible stress reminded me of the premature graying I left behind, the updates of the smart, creative, and all around amazing campaigns for global brands the team was working on evoked more than a tinge of jealousy. Here were all these people, working (their asses off) together, and accomplishing huge results. Because that’s what hard working grownups do. They contribute.

I used to be one of those people, and now I sit in my home “office” writing all day, finding my own path, finding happiness, and tracking down the next day laborer paycheck. And with only a few real deadlines and no one on my ass, I’m working through very few lunches, and very infrequently past 6PM. Is this even close to be considered contributing? If not, where does satisfaction come from?

I have no doubt that I contribute to the small world that surrounds me in as many non-professional ways as I can.  I hesitate to say I work to improve my bubble, but I don’t think The Atlantic would have such hesitation, and I always strive to use language that The Atlantic would understand. So I work to have the best bubble I can have.  I’m there for my friends and my family. I’m a pretty decent girlfriend, and I even do most of the laundry with only sporadic complaints. I make people laugh when they are having a bad day. I clean up my dog’s poop each and every time, and sometimes even adjacent poop that less considerate neighbors leave behind (and before you scoff at this as contribution, think about the last time you stepped in poop. Right. I’m practically saving the world on that one.). I know where I stand politically, and I’m up to date with world conflicts. I over donate at donation yoga, and I leave tips in coffee shop tip jars, all with frequent overdraft notices from the bank. And I don’t like Mitt Romney on Facebook.

Basically: I am happy.  It feels like a good thing. But, does happiness or success lead to a greater long-term sense of life satisfaction? 

I don’t know, and, for the moment, I’m happy to keep exploring that question. It’s important to have strong opinions on healthcare, immigration, and the resurgence of neon, but I’m wary of people who just KNOW the answer to the happiness vs. success battle. You know these people. They smile brightly and give the holier-than-thou “I can remember when I worked 12-hours a day, but my life is just so much BETTER now,” or the holier-and-richer-than-thou “My life is my work, and I couldn’t be happier.” 

I hope someday I can fall in the middle of the Venn Diagram of those people to the area I call “Genuine Life Satisfaction” (alternatively “Unlikely Scenario”). Until then, it’s clear I need to spend a little less time in the self help section.