Thursday, March 10, 2011

Faux Lent and the Pursuit of Happiness Instead of Fame

I'm not Catholic, so Lent has always been something on the periphery of my religious radar. I know that giving something up is one element of Lent, and that giving is another. But that's about all I know.

Honestly, I do not have plans to delve deeply into the whats, whys, and hows of Lent as it is practiced by Catholics, but as I mentioned in a Facebook post the other day, I think giving something up for Lent makes for a unique challenge and test of discipline, and everyone can do it their own way. A few of my friends are giving up sweets. Fried foods is a popular choice. Another friend is giving up swearing. My dad is giving up loneliness. And I thought I might give something up, too. Have my own little non-religious Lent.

But what to give up?

Here's what: The toxic idea that one has to become exceptional in the eyes of others to be worthy. The toxic idea that if an activity doesn't lend itself to becoming exceptional in the eyes of others, it's not worth doing. The toxic idea that a life has been wasted if notoriety of some kind has not been achieved prior to death. And most importantly, the toxic idea that I ought to be working toward some sort of nebulous goal involving power, fame, or the adoration of people who don't even really know me.

Because, yeah, I am embarrassed to say that I still frequently operate under the assumption that if I work hard enough, something fairy tale-ish is going to suddenly happen to me. I have let myself be motivated by immature and frankly silly dreams that wouldn't make me happy if they were actually achieved.

Here's what I'll do instead: (When I'm not at work or working, obviously.) Take Lent off... see what it's like to just have some fun and do what makes me happy. Not measure the worth of what I'm doing based on whether or not it could possibly ever kind of make me famous someday. Just make things and write and earn a little money and reconnect with people and enjoy the Babby and the BabbyDaddy. Can I still chase perfection? Sure, but in my own sphere, where seeing how close I can get to joyful everyday homegrown perfection actually makes me happy.

Does that sound silly or flighty or short-sighted? Oh well!

Let me share a little story with you. Once upon a time, I was in college and I was a chemistry major. No kidding. And in my last semester as a chemistry major, I just plain sucked at almost every required course. And that was with heavy studying. I just could not wrap my brain around chemistry (and the associated math) after a certain level of complexity. Boy, did I ever feel like a screw-up. Kind of just like how I feel right now. Turns out, though, that chemistry was wrong for me - and I celebrated that discovery with what I have for years called my 'fun semester'. I took French. Painting. Art History. And three other courses that fulfilled absolutely no degree-worthy credits. 

In this same spirit, I've been starting to think that the goals I've been pursuing for the past five years are wrong for me, too. Or just out of date - like they worked at the time, but their time of usefulness has passed. So the next slightly-less-than 40 days are going to be my adult 'fun semester' and if it works out, and I'm content, I may extend it to a year. Because it's not like there's anything wrong with just doing what makes you happy, just to be happy.


  1. Stopping by from SITS! What a great site you have...looking forward to following you on your adventures and goals. Also, now I need to look up what book you wrote!

  2. I LOVE this post, the concept, yes yes yes! That is all. LOVE IT!

  3. What a beautiful post. I think as long as you are living a happy life and doing your best that is all that matters. Who needs fame? : )
    Your daughter is adorable!

  4. Great post. I've been thinking about things like this a lot lately too. And I have to admit to thinking that fairytale endings could happen for me :) BUT I have to recognize that nothing happens for me without hard work and even then, it's no fairytale ending :)

  5. I agree, it is absolutely toxic to measure what we do by the value others put upon that act. Good for you for identifying and sharing with us your thoughts. Love this.


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