These are uncertain times. My twenties are supposed to be about seeing the world, to experience new senses, and to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. I am supposed to finally see, really SEE, the man in the mirror who stares back at me each day. In the decade in which I am supposed to become more certain of my identity, I find myself perhaps more uncertain than ever before. This unknown further influences my ideas of what success truly means and how to derive happiness.
These are uncertain times. The uncertainty that inevitably comes with my twenties has been exacerbated by a seemingly endless pandemic, an election during the most politically divisive time in America’s recent history which has deep roots in racial injustice and women’s rights, and the lack of physical interpersonal connection. Life has begun to feel akin to a video game in which the difficulty modifiers are turned all the way up and the creators keep adding new levels. Am I living my own version of The Truman Show? How many levels do I need to beat?
These are uncertain times. One day I think I have uncovered a new facet of myself, only to wake up the next morning and feel more hidden. A good friend of mine once wrote that he wanted to go to college to find the questions to ask, not to find the answers. Well, there are so many new questions popping up everyday. The answers were tantalizingly close, yet eluded me.
These are uncertain times. They say you can’t truly love someone else until you love yourself. Well, how can you love yourself when you are still in the process of finding yourself? How can I find myself if society and the system won’t let me?
These are uncertain times. It has taken a greater part of the decade for me to find the beginning of the answers. I used to be very success oriented (and on some level I still am), but the difference is how I define success. It used to be materialistic. In my education system, I was taught to believe that happiness stemmed from achievement. I would be happy if I got straight A’s. I would be happy if I became a physician. I would be happy when I got my first paycheck. All the while, time continued to pass by.
These are uncertain times. There was happiness that came from this philosophy of thinking. But, it was always transient. An ephemeral high, that refused to last. I needed to do more. There was always more to obtain. Materialism was dangerously addictive.
These are uncertain times. What I had already accomplished didn’t matter. It was always about the next step. I kept beating one level after the other, however I still had a superficial connection with myself and my happiness was stagnant at best. My brain rationalized this line of thinking to the concept of delayed gratification. If I just beat one more level, maybe that’ll be the one where I uncover part of the uncertainty.
These are uncertain times. There was no “AHA” moment. It took years. Maybe it was some of the books I read. Maybe it was through traveling. Maybe it was through twenty years of school. Maybe it was through spending time with loved ones. In all likelihood, it was the combination of all of the above. The key revelation was when I began to derive happiness from the process of growing.
These are uncertain times. There will always be more levels to beat. The satisfaction comes from playing the level, rather than beating it. This version of happiness has been long lasting. I’m happy with the journey itself.
These are uncertain times. There’s a phrase I say to most cancer patients I have the privilege of meeting which goes, “We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we react.” I can’t control national politics, which school will accept me, or how long the pandemic will last. But I can control myself. I can choose to be happy in this moment and that choice has made all the difference.
These are uncertain times. Through this choice, I’ve uncovered aspects of my identity from the crevices of my soul. I’ve accepted that there are things beyond my control. There will always be another dollar to earn or a better job to seek. I don’t have to be the best. I have begun to simply ‘be’. I can choose to love myself.
These are uncertain times. Maybe more so than ever before. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy right now.