On Saturday morning, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I walked through my favorite park in Torrance. I like the Saturday morning change-up from the usual evening walks during the workday week. Yeah, I wore my surgical mask and followed social distancing.
Making the bend round the walkway path, I saw a squirrel scurry up a tree. A cute 3-year-old girl ran to the tree screaming in delight with the biggest smile. She was in the park with her family. She saw the squirrel. That squirrel made her ‘mad’ happy. We’re talking squirrel.
Again, rounding the bend along the walkway path the squirrel ran up another tree. A cute little boy, maybe 2 years-old, laughed and yelled, “Mommy!” The boy chased after the squirrel with his Mom in-tow holding her camera phone. The perfect Instagram post. That little boy was so damn happy about that squirrel, too.
Yes, a squirrel. Yet, that little girl and that little boy found such joy in that squirrel. A simple squirrel. The profound wisdom of children: they find happy in the simple. Now, as adults, we often forget to look for happy in the simple. I too could use more practice. Just saying.
I recalled what made me so very happy when I was a kid. On school field trips, Mom packed my favorite lunch: musubi (rice balls) and fried chicken. Mom made that lunch out of pure love. So it tasted so good. Mom was a good cook, too. I shared my lunch with my friends, as well. I was so happy.
When I was 13 years old, I rolled over 6 kids crouched down on the mat in the Pearl City Aikido Dojo in Hawaii. I had healed up for 4 months, after breaking my collarbone on my previous Aikido rolling fail. I was back doing what I loved, what I was really good at, too. Yeah, I completed the roll that time. I was so very happy.
I was the fat short nerdy kid, not at all the athlete. When I was 12 years old, Mom basically forced me to take Aikido. Thus began my lifelong love story of Aikido. Aikido made me happy, even back then.
That resonates. Over my 30 years of Aikido training, my love for Aikido sources my mad love and respect for the late Mizukami Sensei, who was like a father to me. Aikido is my happy. Like the squirrel for that little girl in the park.
Growing up at home, I didn’t collect much happy. I forfeited childhood, instead enduring it, surviving it. I constantly feared Dad getting angry at whatever I did or didn’t do. Dad’s voice, “You’re no good”, became mine. Consequently, I had to prove that I was strong, that I was “good enough”. That I was worthy of being loved. No happy for 8-year-old Jon.
As a young adult, I dismissed having any romantic relationship with a woman with my eyes wide open. Yeah, I was young and stupid. I thought, “No woman will ever fall in love with me.” I sold out on me. I sold out on happy, again.
Then I met Mizukami Sensei. Sensei taught me Aikido and what it is to be a good man. He gave me the space to invent my greater-than versions. I worked with my Therapist Lance in healing my childhood trauma and depression. I started loving myself for who I am, and forgiving me for who I’m not.
After 58 years on the Planet, I do what I love. I have as much fun as possible. Sure, I’m compensating for my “lost childhood”. Yet, we’re never too old to find our happy, to find our measure of peace. The peace in being as authentic as I can be. Happy to be me.
Sure, I have to make money, make a living, and provide for myself. Maybe, making a living, doing your job, isn’t what you love? Love and forgive thine own self. We don’t sell out in the bigger picture. Believe in yourself. Possibilities can arise. So be open to them.
I love my work which wasn’t always the case. Yet, sometimes being the responsible adult requires doing what needs to be done, rather than what we love. We do our best. Have faith. Life ain’t perfect, and neither are we. Have compassion for thine own self.
In the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi: There is beauty in our imperfection. My friend Cheryl said, “Life is imperfectly perfect.” I accept who I am and who I’m not. Mizukami Sensei said, “Make it work.” Make life work.
A couple years after I first started work in Los Angeles, my friend Ross said, “Don’t get good at anything that you don’t like doing.” At the time, Ross was 25 years old. I was 27 years-old. His words landed as profound wisdom, at least for me.
We can’t always do what we love. Still, it’s invaluable getting what you don’t like to do. Perhaps, smarter is doing what you’re good at, rather than what you love. In 10th grade I read The Merchant of Venice in Shakespeare class. After that, I wanted to be a writer.
I got that I wasn’t going make a living as a writer. I was far better at math and science. So I chose to study Electrical Engineering in college. In graduate school, my Thesis Advisor Dr. Tom showed me the bigger picture: Engineering is Art. That was meaningful.
I’ve loved Satellite Systems Engineering for over 30 years. I’ve been privileged to working with and learn from amazing people like Chuck and Al. I discovered creative solutions to some very complex problems. I’m good at what I do. I love what I do. The satellite system that I helped design and test is still flying after 25 years, providing invaluable service for the US. That was art.
Over the last several years, I invented my writer’s voice. I write posts about life, love and forgiveness on The Good Men Project. With my Editor Lisa Blacker, I believe we’re making a difference. So I write. I do what I love.
In the beginning, I did what I was good at. Over the years, I also did what I loved as it evolved. I put in the work. I just trained. I got my happy. That was meaningful.
Discover your squirrel, your happy. My happy is Aikido. My happy is writing about life: its balance and imperfections. My happy is making a difference, too. I’m not yet in a romantic relationship. Still, I’m open to the possibility. I take my baby steps. I”m as authentic as I can be. That’s my happy, as well.
Your happy could be a simple as finding a squirrel. Just saying.
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