“What made you decide to start this pursuit of happiness?”
It’s a simple question, one I should expect from interviewers by now, but when I was asked it this week I was left without a response. Perhaps it was the way it was phrased this time, or maybe it was the distance between today and the initial decision that made it harder to come up with some easily quotable answer.
What made me decide to pursue happiness?
Um… because not being happy sucks?
I know how to explain why we decided to travel around the United States. I know why I choose a positive attitude over a negative one most days. But what started it all? What made me turn from not pursuing happiness?
I keep going back through my memory in search of a light bulb moment. I understand that’s what reporters and producers want, a catalytic event that makes for powerful (and easier) storytelling. And surely there must have been a turning point.
I usually tell people deciding to take a trip is like deciding to have a baby. There isn’t one thing that makes you say “oh, yes, let’s bring a new person into our lives.” A decision like that — when it’s made consciously instead of consequently — is more likely the result of lots of moments, a slow building of seemingly innocuous realizations that come together over time to create one big, complicated decision.
But then, there is certainly a very specific event that tips the scales from “no baby” to “baby making.” The date — and probably the room and outfit — can be pinpointed pretty easily.
So what was my baby making moment? What was the dinner or sweetly spoken word that made me finally drop the mantle of getting by and pick up the hope of actively pursuing happiness?
It may have been the moment two years ago when I asked my husband to move out. Or maybe it was the moment a month later when I asked him to come home. It very easily could have been the therapy that I went to between those dates and the months of marriage counseling that followed.
It might have been a few months later when my brother was arrested or, shortly thereafter, when I learned my family had been betrayed by a woman we loved. Neither of those things were particularly happy, but it solidified for me the both limited and vast power I have to choose happiness in my own tiny corner of the world. It made my priorities crystal clear.
Within a few months of those kicks to the gut we were deciding to take a year off to travel.
I could claim any one of those events as my eureka experience and have a thrilling tale to tell. The interviews would be neatly packaged and the book easy to write. But none of those days stand alone. They are each part of the larger continuum of life and to pretend that there was a tipping point belies the reality that there is no single moment capable of defining the rest of your life.
There is no such thing, I think, of one thing that leads to one decision that leads to this is who we will be forever and ever.
And thank God for that.