Happiness is…

Hydrangeas in bloom

Flowers announcing the arrival of Spring.

‘There are so many people who don’t know what they want. And I think that, in this world, that’s the only thing you have to know — exactly what you want. … Doing what you were born to do … That’s the way to be happy,’ said Canadian-born artist Agnes Martin (1912 – 2004), who would have turned 101 on March 22nd.

When I read these words I am reminded of the events that led my wife and me to adopt our self-proclaimed Six Monther lifestyle, our decision to live in a new country every six months. I had spent most weekends of my life in the great outdoors. However, most days I was never more than a few hours’ drive from home.

Then I met and married Florence, who has traveled throughout her adult life. I envied her that experience. There were places I wanted to visit and experience, too. Thus, we prepared ourselves to explore the world together. We sold our house, our cars, and whatever possessions we could not pack. Our aim was not to seek happiness, but to achieve it by pursuing our passion for discovery and adventure. People who learn of our lifestyle react in a variety of ways. The most common responses include:

1.  I wish I could do that, but I have to work so I will enjoy your lifestyle vicariously.
2.  I want to live like that someday when I can afford it.
3.  It sounds exciting, but I could never live like that. I would miss my family and friends too much.
4.  You must be crazy. Who in their right mind would sell everything and live like wandering vagabonds?

All of these responses are valid, of course. I have personally held each of these viewpoints at various stages of my life. It surprises many people, including me, to admit I have had my passport for less than two years. Perhaps I am much like my parents who eventually traveled extensively around the world, but not until we kids grew up so that it was something they could afford.

Heliconia in bloom

Heliconia in bloom

This phase of life is Spring, a season of optimism reminding us of regeneration and renewal, whether through religious beliefs or by simply observing the trees and flowers showering us with the vibrant colors of new life. Have you found what you were born to do? Are you pursuing it?
Happy Easter and Happy Spring!

21 comments on “Happiness is…

  1. Wonderful post Mike! Happy spring, indeed.

  2. Happy Easter! I think you’re lucky to see the spring signs coming, but I want to tell you something, my garden still have two heaps of snow sitting there.

  3. mkesling63 says:

    I think that this shows a lot of respect and interest in other people’s cultures, heritages. There should be more people like you in this arena.

  4. jo-schindler says:

    When I was three years old I knew that I wanted to be a Registered Nurse — the kind that wore the white uniform and the white cap with the black stripe on the cap. Well, that desire kept me in the school system from grade one and through high school. I had traumatic experiences even in grade one. If I had not had that desire, I think I may have given up on the school system, maybe not in grade one, but at some point. Well, registered nurses stopped wearing their white uniforms and white caps with the black stripe but I graduated in that outfit and wore it for about five years. I worked as a nurse for thirty-four years before I was forced to retire at 62 years old because of osteoarthritis. I didn’t always have a wonderful time with my staff; but my happiest times were when I could be with my patients. When I felt I was giving good palliative care to the dying or just emotional care to those who needed that, I was the happiest; and have always felt grateful, I had the drive to stick to becoming a nurse.
    I believe what you are doing in traveling around would be very rewarding as well. At times, I felt it would be wonderful to be a traveling nurse, but I never had the courage. I appreciate reading your blog — your posts are very informative and interesting. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • There is something special about knowing what you want to do with your life at a young age. You remind me of all the nurses I have known and how loving and caring and lovable they were. (Remember the bumper stickers that said “Love a Nurse”? I had one of those.) You also remind me of my childhood dream to one day fly jets. I almost ended up doing that. Looking back, I am glad the Viet Nam War ended before I had to make that terrible choice.
      I am most pleased that you shared your story here. Thank you. Your story is an inspiring one. – Mike

  5. Hey Mike! I’ve found what I was born to do over and over again in my life. Let me explain this. I’m one of those people who gets really excited about some new venture, like starting a business (I’ve started a couple), writing a book (I’ve started more than I can count on my fingers) or some other thing, but I tend not to stick with something for very long. Once the excitement and newness wear off and the hard work begins, I tend to get disillusioned. Sometimes I think I get disillusioned because I’ve not yet discovered what I was ‘born’ to do. Other times I think that I’m simply being immature. Other times I think there are just so many things that I want to do with my life that I find it hard to fully commit to anything. Or maybe, what I’m supposed to do with my life is go from one thing to another to another – who knows. It’s not a horrible way to live (I suppose it’s kind of like being a ‘six monther’). At least I’ve found a stable relationship, and this grounds me and makes me happy.

    • Hi Celeste. I think the true measure of knowing if you are doing what you were meant to do is if you are happy doing it. I have had three careers and held many jobs within those career fields. The reason I changed jobs numerous times is I just was not happy. Naturally, I stayed longer in the better paying jobs because of my family obligations, which reminds about my father. He gave up his own business to work for an hourly wage at Boeing where he stayed for 30 years. Because they always paid just enough to keep him, he once told me, “Now I know what my soul is worth.” I know now what he meant. We are not all fortunate enough to be paid to do what we most love. I guess that is why I feel so blessed now in retirement, just like my father felt after he retired.
      Ultimately, you will discover if there is one pursuit more important than the others. If not then perhaps you were meant to pursue a variety of interests. As long as you are happy, that is the main thing.

      • I agree with you that knowing if you’re doing what you were meant to do is if you’re happy doing it. But, like you say, not all of us are fortunate enough to be paid to do what we most love. My husband, for example, would love to be an actor. He doesn’t like the idea of being a starving actor, however; so he doesn’t act. I am so happy that you’re living it up in your retirement. That’s wonderful and I enjoy reading about your adventures!

  6. reocochran says:

    I think that it is fantastic to have this blog and to help us to be encouraged to explore more. Not all your readers will ever afford to do what you are doing. Some have to find some excitement in their lives with their neighbors and family in parks, along streams, in the night or day skies and all the beauty that is presented to us every day, sometimes in everyday settings.

    • The situation you describe about others not being able to afford travel was my situation for all the years I was working and supporting my family. I saw a great deal of beauty in the wilderness areas near my home in Washington State. For my entire adult life, finding beauty in my local environment was my only option, and that was amazing. There are places I miss, but every adventure is something new. Now I am fulfilling my purpose by seeing what the rest of the world has to offer.

      • Douglas E says:

        Mike – your blog always reminds me of the saying “You can’t walk on the water unless you get out of the boat.” A number of years ago we pulled up stakes and left Colorado Springs for Malibu. Many of our friends thought we were crazy, leaving beauty, family and friends behind. Well, we enjoyed the new beauty of oceanside living, made wonderful new friends, and saw our family many times. We are back in Boulder now, but dreaming of our next adventure! paz – doug

      • Thanks, Doug. It is always a pleasure to share your adventures. We clearly share some similar philosophy about living life as fully as we can while we can.

  7. tanyamurchie says:

    Mike, I love reading your blog! I feel you are an inspiration to many especially those who think they cannot do something but inside they really want to. I am finally doing what I am meant to do. After selling most of our belongings my husband and I are living in Central Mexico. I have begun teaching english to 7 locals, which one year ago there was no way I would have thought this. I am also learning Spanish, travelling (which I love) and pursuing my passion for photography. Happy spring!

    • Tanya, I enjoy writing and sharing our experiences. However, I would have never thought of my posts as inspirational. That is high praise, and I thank you for your kind words.
      Congratulations on finding and pursuing your purpose-driven lifestyle. – Mike

  8. Steven says:

    Mike, wonderful post and I couldn’t agree more. When I was in my early 20s stationed overseas in Great Britain, I got to a few other places while stationed there, but I always regretted not taking full advantage of being in Europe. Similarly, prior to my divorce in 2000, I recall choosing work over a vacation to New Zealand that I canceled because I wanted to make a great impression at a new job I was promoted to. Essentially, it involved moving to Denver from California.and at the time, I thought it would be a good idea to report early, so I canceled the vacation. This caused a rift between my wife and I; and moreover, was another example of being a workaholic – always choosing work over family. The ephiphany came after the divorce, where I did a lot of soul searching and decided to do 3 things: 1. Cut my hours back to 40 a week (I usually was working 50 or more); 2. Cut my business travel back significantly; and, 3. Retire early at 51 come hell or high water – which I did in 2006.

    Most important, I “check in” constantly or as Socrates said, “A life without self examination is a life not much worth living.”

    • Steven,
      Too often people discover late in life that their priorities may not have been exactly right. You grew up in the same generation as I did where we were indoctrinated in the belief that work and “getting ahead” were the top priorities. That is okay from a material standpoint. However, as we get older we find our time was given to something other than self or family. That was what my father meant when he told me, “Now I know what my soul is worth.”
      Congratulations on retiring early! I hope you have a lifetime of adventure and ‘self-examination’ ahead of you, and thank you for sharing your story.- Mike

  9. Madeleine and Yvon says:

    Hi Florence and Mike,

    We really enjoyed first meeting you in Cuernavaca and now reading your wonderful words about your great experiences it is something why we understand so many interesting people in different fields share with you.their thoughts.Your are a very inspiring couple and congratulations.Love, Madeleine and Yvon

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