“Lately I’ve been wondering; What is life all about?” (Jose Gonzalez) What am I looking for and how do I find the things that will make me happy?
To answer this question I first had to get my head on straight after five years of isolation from schizophrenia. I was completely estranged from the world, but after reading a good amount of literature I realized that I do want a good life. Establishing that I was in search of a good life and nothing else was important. There were a number of delusions from different sources floating around in my mind that being particular ways such as tough, or rugged, or downtrodden, would make me feel worthwhile. This wasn’t the case. I didn’t have to prove to other people that I had been through any adversity as a rite of passage to happiness. Knowing that adversity was something to overcome or even side-step if possible was important because it gave me direction. The goal is to bring “chaos to order and not order to chaos” (Kurt Vonnegut).
I decided my first goal was to increase my salary so I could move out of the house. Reading other people’s writing in longer segments has been one of my triggers for schizophrenia for the longest time. It’s been an ongoing project to resolve it but it’s not yet resolved. I was forced to re-enter the workforce from ground zero after five years of schizoaffective disorder episodes because of this impediment. I did, however, have my college degree but without reading it wasn’t much of a help. Starting at base pay in a new industry, I lamented that I would never be able to make enough money to have the things that I wanted out of life. I felt I needed to have a particular type of home, eat certain types of food, be able to drive a particular car, and have all sorts of great material possessions to be happy and to support a family. After living on a small paycheck for several years I eventually realized material possessions aren’t what I’m looking for in life.
For the longest time, the only thing I wanted in life was to have a family. After nine years of having schizoaffective disorder, I felt if I could have a family then everything would be resolved. Everything would be fixed. Schizophrenia would be cured and I would be on my way. I would have the panacea I was looking for and finally live happily ever after. Realizing that I might not ever have a traditional family was a bit of a burden. However, I learned that I do have a family in my parents and sister and my friend groups and also two nieces. It was just in a different form.
I felt that in order to lead a good life I would want to be in a good relationship. Unfortunately, I once again concluded that I didn’t make enough money or that I wasn’t fit to even have a girlfriend never mind support a family. While living at home with a small paycheck I dated several girls and they all liked me for who I am. After experiencing that they liked me for who I am I understood that money wasn’t the reason I had been single. After being in several relationships, some of which were good and others which weren’t, I learned that a relationship also isn’t a panacea.
I realized I’ve been financially weak and it hasn’t made too much of a difference. It hasn’t inhibited my ability to enjoy a good conversation or a good song, or to go out and have great life experiences. I eventually came to understand that life is about the quality of the experiences we have and not necessarily anything else. Sometimes money can help, most times it can’t.
The lives we lead have more to do with the mentality we bring to the table, in any and all situations. The richness of my experiences is more so a product of how well I’ve educated myself mentally and emotionally. Experiencing life in a fun and enjoyable way has everything to do with my attitude and it has nothing to do with the amount of money I’m making, my relationship status, or the material possessions I have. I figured out what I wanted to do with my life and I’m currently doing those things; I have a great family in my parents and sister and nieces, I have friends that I hang out with regularly, I have a stable job which puts food on the table and pays the rent, I’m in a pool league, I golf regularly.
I realized that I may or may not eventually have a family or make more money and that it’s also not going to happen overnight. However, I don’t need to wait for these things to happen to enjoy my life and I don’t always have a say in whether these things will happen. There is too much random occurrence in life to put an ultimatum forward that a certain set of experiences has to happen in order for me be happy. We don’t always have a say in what we get to experience. Generally speaking, I can enjoy my life regardless of what is happening. I also learned that I can’t be dependent upon one or two particular things because they can be gone just as quickly as they have arrived. The key to happiness in life is to work hard, have a good attitude, and to make the most out of whatever it is that I’m doing. The rest will eventually fall into place and if it doesn’t, I’ll have a number of great memories to look back upon.
Photo by Alex Holyoake