“Very little is needed to make a happy life.” Marcus Aurelius
As a child, I swam in the clouds with vast imagination. I thought growing up in Ohio, tomorrows were endless and troubles invisible. Adulthood left behind the small-town security and shelter of family, and longtime friends since elementary school. New days consumed a grand-prix mindset. Surviving the competition meant glued to the grindstone called important success. I surmised getting ahead, you know… college, making a living, seeking that promotion with competitive salary raises gave more options than my small Ohio town.
Little did I know, because no one gives anyone a playbook … unless you’re fortunate enough to inherit one: obtaining success leaves little time to catch your breath. Opportunity meant a ten-to-twelve-hour work day. Lunch was an alcohol networking opportunity. I never thought chasing accomplishments, was in any other way, maneuvering a city called Los Angeles, nor did I question my choices. Leisure walks, discovering and rediscovering the city I thought I loved, had no place in my schedule.
Fast forward, nothing in the now future, was in my then past state of mind. My agenda ages ago isn’t one I recognize now. Leisure time back then was rarely a two-week vacation. Instead, like most LA-on the way up-types, meant a day taken here or there extending the weekend, quick coffee with a friend or impromptu dinners with an agenda of social climbing. When I ran this gauntlet, my mind was preoccupied with the next high profile work project or deadline. The options I worked hard for were rarely realized. I accepted year-end bonuses dangled like delicious treats. My impressive resume stretched from marketing to finance to project manager. American Express Card, private offices, air travel for client meetings, and departmental managerial titles gave me prestige in both salary and ego… happiness eluded.
Is this all? It wasn’t until my forties when I moved away from Los Angeles to Portland and then, Seattle, that I noticed a major shift in the pendulum. Work was important in the office for job security, but family and friends sliced up a bigger piece of the pie. Needless to say, the adjustment, particularly to Portland was immense. I accepted neighbors as caring and supportive friends, leisure walks became normal, and spontaneous dinners became a regular informal gathering lasting well into the evening. Breathe is what I did. Breathe.
I adapted relaxation, a core once foreign to me, and one, I probably wouldn’t have known had I remained in Los Angeles. Discovery was something long abandoned—writing fictional stories. I set aside a collection of character-driven outlines, twist-turning plots, and book titles I wanted to expound upon. I put these ideas, along with magazine pictures of cities, people, and scenery into a wooden box purchased in Big Sur. What has led me to where I am at this time and place is imagining something so absurd that you’d have to be crazy to even consider it probable. I enjoy a movable feast of unexplored cities and new friendships; this transition has recharged my imagination.
Thank you all for following my writing and blogs all these years: I challenge you to look back on the past and recharge your battery for less of the grindstone.
It’s a New Year! Celebrate, in spite of what you think you can and have to do.