We all go through seasons where our sources of happiness shift around. It's natural. As humans, we change. One year, you have an undying passion for a thing and the next year you couldn't care less about that thing. When I reflect on my life, I see this happiness shift occurring between two sources: people and projects.
In college, I didn't give a rip about grades. I was consumed by people. I loved people. Being around them, making them laugh, working through trials, helping them succeed — I loved sharing life with others. I was president of Homecoming Committee, SGA, my fraternity. I was at every dance. Every IM sport. Life was full. I look back on my college years with deep affection.
I married my beautiful college sweetheart right immediately after graduation and moved down to Johnson City, Tennessee after a blissful honeymoon week in the Bahamas.
Similar to college, the first year in Tennessee was all about relationships. Making new friends, investing in a local church, and fostering love in our marriage.
Then I noticed a shift in passion.
When I looked at my life, I wondered what I was creating. I built relationships and enjoyed them. But relationships are like arcade games. You enjoy them most when you're investing in them. If you don't put a quarter in, the screen doesn't turn on and you can't play. The more tokens you put in, the more you play, the better you get, the more you enjoy it. Kind of like sports. Volleyball is way more fun when you know how to knuckle dink a bad set over double blockers.
The point is relationships are intangible. A hundred years after you die, no one remembers the boozy game night you had at your place with a group of friends. Your legacy comes from what you create.
A clothing line.
A coffee brand.
You see what I mean. These tangible things are able to last beyond you. This is where my head was. I wanted to create something real.
Soon, as the world's most extroverted person, I started picking up introvert habits. I began to care about productivity. I discovered my love for writing.
I invested $5k to create a web app. I started a digital publication. I started learning how to code to create mobile apps. I wrote a novel.
Rather than caring about people, I started to care more about projects.
It's been this way for several years now.
We moved to Washington DC. My love for projects deepened. I wanted to be alone... so I could create things. I had enough relationships in my life. My wife, my friends, my church, my family, my coworkers, and the strangers I met networking at events twice a week in DC — I had all I needed. What I wanted was time. Time to create.
In March 2017, my wife became a travel nurse and I quit my job to become a full time writer. We moved every three months to a new city. First Phoenix, then Salt Lake City, then San Mateo, California. It was incredible. I had more time to work on projects than ever, we explored the West, and we invested in our marriage and memories.
As we come to the end of our time here in San Mateo, I'm realizing that projects are just as fleeting as people. Projects fall apart. They fail. No one cares (half the time). But there's always a chance you create something that takes off. This possibility is a dangling carrot. But even when an article takes off or when I happen to have some sort of viral success, it fades.
Just like thinking a prayer like "God, if you speak audibly to me right now, I will believe in you" will help us believe, it won't matter in six months. Even if God spoke to you out loud, you'd still doubt his existence in half a year.
In other words, I've plunged myself into projects and found it just as unsatisfying as people. That's not quite it though.
Happiness comes from a balance of projects and people, self-care and self-sacrifice, selfishness and selflessness. An extreme on one end of the spectrum or the other will never work.
Lastly, imagine happiness as a balance beam. In order for a balance beam to achieve equilibrium, it requires perfect placement on a fulcrum. Without a fulcrum — lying flat on the ground — we're lifeless. Dead. Being alive involves action, swinging, ups and downs, riding the see-saw of life. The question is, what is the fulcrum you place your life on that will grant you balance?