Based on the title of the post, you’d think that it would be an easy one to write, and you’d be wrong. The fact that it took a lot of thinking to figure out what I should be doing that makes me happy speaks volumes about where my mind has been at of late. And it’s not like I don’t know the things that make me happy, it’s accepting that I need to be doing them as well as everything else I already do in my life, that they are just as important in achieving balance.
The quote above is by Warren Ellis. He tends to close his newsletters with a little motivational message, and this is the one for this week. I found that it spoke to me directly, telling me what I needed to hear right now. I’m breaking the message into five statements and writing on how each of them spoke to me, and how I want to improve my situation as a result.
Based on the quote, the title of this post should have been a lot longer, but for brevity’s sake I stuck to the essence: do what makes you happy. It should be a no brainer, right? We work, we do chores, take care of our responsibilities, we should also have some fun! But the fact that we need a reminder says a lot about how many of us, myself included, tend to put what makes us happy aside in favor of other things. In my case, this goes hand in hand with what I spoke about recently regarding treating myself, basically a toxic belief that I lack worth. As I said in that post, I’ve been working for years to rid myself of that bugbear, and acknowledging that I also need to do what makes me happy to maintain balance is part of that process.
This isn’t just about having fun, but about things that yield happiness as a result of the act of doing them; there’s an active component to the equation. There is a selfish component as well: it isn’t just about things that bring happiness to a group of people, but to you specifically. I understand that the word selfish normally carries a negative connotation, but I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with a little selfishness in moderation. I certainly do things that are fun and that make me happy, like going to the beach with my wife and daughter, or playing video games once in a while, but when it comes to things that bring me and me alone happiness, that’s where I have to do better.
So what makes me happy? I thought long about what the answer to that question would be, and I tried to figure out how to encapsulate all these endeavors that bring me joy. I went with the word imagination which yielded that cool headed pic, and a way to express that what makes me happy is doing things that are creative, things born from my imagination. I enjoy roleplaying games because I create stories with friends, and I enjoy writing because I create fiction and essays out of the jumble of ideas in my head. At times in my life I’ve dabbled in art, graphic design, podcasting, publishing, all because they allowed me to explore and express my imagination in new ways. I could even throw reading into the mix, since it helps feed and grow my imagination. But if I have to dilute it down to the essence, creating stories, whether collaborative in gaming, or individually in fiction or essays, that’s what makes me happy, and I need to do more of it. More to the point, I need to make it part of my daily life, make time to dedicate to imaginative work. I’ve struggled with this my entire life, so it’s no surprise that I’m doing it now again, but I need to keep working at it, keep making the effort to actively dedicate time to that which makes me happy.
As I close the week I reflect on Ellis’ quote and what it said to me, what it made me think about, what it helped me reflect on, and how it all comes together to make me a better person going forward. I must breathe, to center myself, and so that I can be of help to myself and others; I must learn to turn down the volume on the world as needed to maintain my centeredness and peace of mind; I must go outside when I can to enjoy the world around, to remember that I am part of that world, to improve my physical and menal well-being; I must make a fort when I can’t, can’t go outside for whatever reason, or just simply can’t anymore, because if you just can’t, you might as well can’t in a pillow and blanket fort; and lastly I must indulge in a little selfishness and actively do things that make me, ME, happy.