by Maisie Smith on April 2, 2015
“I just want to be happy.”
They stared back at me, then sideways at each other and then down at their legal pads to make a few scribbling notes.
“That’s it?” one of them asked.
“Yes. My goal is to be happy.”
That was the moment I lost the crown. Judges don’t like happy. Judges like starry-eyed ambition.
And so the title of Miss Umatilla County 1994 went to a gal who knew that the correct answer to the question, “What is your biggest goal in life?” is this:
“I am going to solve world hunger, volunteer at orphanages throughout Siberia and save the Azure-rumped Tanager in Guatemala. When I get my degree in Nuclear and Particle Physics next year, I plan on inventing a cold fusion reactor that will solve our global energy crisis.”
I should have said that. Then, maybe, the $3000 pageant scholarship I was vying for would have been mine and I wouldn’t have had to put myself through college by working in the “fine” jewelry department at Wal-Mart.
Instead, I simply wanted to be happy… and thought that was enough.
• • •
We live life based on this word.
I should quit my job.
I should eat more kale.
I should stop binge-watching “House of Cards”
I should empty the lint trap on my dryer more often.
I should use up the entire bottle of shampoo before opening a new one.
I should major in Accounting instead of Humanities.
I should launch a podcast.
I should be on Facegram, Twinterest or whatever the social media app du jour is right now.
That’s really what we’re saying, right? That we aren’t quite good enough. That we aren’t doing enough. That we should be better. That happiness is some fleeting notion that only swoops in once we turn our “shoulds” into “dids.” That we can’t trust who we are in this very moment.
“Shoulds” are the ruthless bullies on the playground of life. They pretend to be your friend… “Hey, I can make your life way better”… and then they trick you into believing that trading your Oreos for their carrots is entirely logical. Next thing you know, they’re king of the goddamn jungle gym, sitting high and mighty at the top of the dome, munching on everyone’s cookies and taunting, “Haha… you’ll never be as good as me, suckers!”
cookie happiness robbers… that’s what “shoulds” are.
Not “What do people expect?” or “What am I obligated to do?” or “What will make me feel the least amount of guilt?”
But… what do you really want? What’s going to bring you the greatest amount of happiness?
(Because, in the end, happiness is inevitably the King. You already knew that. Right?)
Maybe watching the Underwoods screw over yet another unsuspecting victim on HofC is your brief but happy escape from a world full of spreadsheets and ROI and bottom-line and screaming toddlers and moldy leftovers in the back of the fridge.
Should you quit your job? I don’t know. Just because all the cool kids seem to be doing it/encouraging it/writing about it doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you. Some jobs are fucking awesome. I hope yours is one of them. But if going to work every day is a punch to the gut and your $1000 Christmas bonus is the highlight of your year, I’d say… yes… you might want to think about making a plan to quit your damn job and do something you love.
Should I have told my douchebag college advisor to shove it when he encouraged me to forget about majoring in Humanities and “just find a husband” instead? Yep. Totally. Instead, I listened to his “should” and it drastically changed the trajectory of my life path. It put me in the weeds. Not just the scrubby dandelions by the side of the road, but the fucking weeds that grow as high as your head, where people chuck old tires and bathtubs. It took me 15 years to machete-hack my way out.
Man, that was a hard lesson.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
And, yes, a thoughtful human being probably should use up every last possible ounce in the shampoo bottle before opening up a new one. But maybe I like having 23 bottles in my shower, all tipped upside-down for maximum squirtage. In my world, it’s about having choices… and that trumps any “should” that tries to infiltrate my shower routine.
Think Pinterest is lame? Then don’t do it for your business. Rather stab a blunt spoon handle into your eyeball than write a blog post? Then don’t blog. Monthly networking luncheon turned lame? Don’t go.
It’s pretty simple.
There are no “shoulds.” Only possibilities. You determine which ones will make you happy. Make decisions based on what you like, on what you want, and ditch the “shoulds” for good. Right now. Let them waste their time guarding cookies at the top of the jungle gym, watching a world of awesomeness go by.
To digging life instead of ditches,