You would think I could get over the whole graduation thing. Yes, it was a delightful weekend, but I am home now, swimming once more in a spit-up-seasoned sea of baby toys and diapers. Miles from New Haven and college life and commencement. But no.
Another thing that Yale Law dean Harold Koh said, other than eloquently encouraging us to be big trees in the forest of life? He said (something like): Pursue happiness. The right to happiness is an inalienable right. You can't sell it. Do not let anything -- the mortgage, the BMW payments, even children -- trap you in a job you don't like.
And, sitting there, anonymously, behind my obnoxiously vast Oliver Peoples shades, a Yale grad, a lawyer of latter day, a rookie writer, a young mom, a perpetually lost soul hungry for morsels of wisdom, I nodded. Vigorously.
Happiness. That's it. That's what matters in life.
But mere moments later, I thought to myself: What is happiness? How can we pursue it if we don't know what it is?
And then, because I have quite the non-linear attention span, I flashed to one of Toddler's Free To Be Under 3 classes where the teacher always leads a riveting rendition of that classic song If You're Happy and You Know It. Come on. You don't have to have kids to remember this one. If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands! (And then there are a bevy of other verses involving stomping feet and tapping heads and air kisses and shouts of hooray.) Anyway, the point is that all of us parents and kiddies sing along each week: If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands! And, sure enough, all the tiny tots clap their tiny hands. They don't even have to think about it. Imagine that.
And suddenly, I imagined a room full of adults and what they would do with these simple melodic instructions. And something tells me a few people would probably clap proudly and a bit insistently. And then a few would probably not clap. And then a few of us (maybe most of us?) would clap softly or apathetically or uncertainly. Because this is not an easy question, is it? In fact, if we are being technical, it is two questions:
(1) Are you happy?
(2) Do you know it?
Patently, each of these questions is a biggie and has kept philosophers and other thinkers and regular people like the rest of us baffled and busy for centuries. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't ask these questions and try to answer them. But how many of us are brave enough to ask these deceptively simple, childhood questions?
One such brave soul? Fellow Yalie/lawyer/Manhattan mom/writer Gretchen Rubin. Rubin is currently at work on her book THE HAPPINESS PROJECT a memoir of the year she spent "test-driving" tips and theories of happiness from the pedestrian to the profound to the philosophical. Not only did Rubin press pause on her fast-track life to explore the enigmatic and idiosyncratic concept of human happiness, but she generously documents her experience and findings on her intriguing and insightful daily blog.
So. Are you happy. And, if so, do you know it?
Not sure? I'm right there with you. But I encourage you to check out Rubin's blog because while soaking up her sage musings, it occurred to me in a mini light-bulb moment that this blog you are reading might be my very own (and very accidental) happiness project. That hammering away on my keyboard, spewing bits silly and serious and somewhere in between, that fashioning a new sense of authenticity in my own little world, is in fact making me a happier person. Whatever that means. So maybe blogging is what it will take to get me clapping loudly and proudly?
What will it take to get you clapping? Because as much as we might want to endorse and live by Koh's astute advice to cling tight to our right to happiness, to pursue happiness full-force, we cannot pursue something we can't recognize, can we?