I’ve been struggling with a bad cold this week so haven’t been able to do much besides go to work and lie in bed. My level of enthusiasm for everything has turned a bit muddy. I think I’m tired and perhaps a little restless for something to spark my interest. Since early December I’ve been wandering in and out of conversations trying to rip off the filters, not so much from others but from myself. How can I start with others when I myself feel like I’m held back? I guess I’m trying to be my truest self because over here it’s quite easy to be someone you’re not. And before you know it you’ll have changed into a person you don’t like. I find conversations with new people, or in large groups, only skim the surface here in Dubai. It takes so long to get close to people. I’m just as guilty of keeping to myself, too. That’s why when I meet the few people who seem genuinely themselves, I hold on tight. I have a few such friends I like to see regularly. They keep me grounded.
let’s get personal
My girlfriend and I were talking last night about confiding in people…and I think it’s become difficult to talk about the personal. The things on our mind. Beyond work and career. Feelings, the truth. Your fears and concerns. Your vulnerability. Your dreams and fantasies. What do you lie in bed and think about when staring at your ceiling? I’ve been thinking about the cracking plaster, whether this building will fall apart before I leave it, whether I can turn the ceiling into a crystal ball and see the future. Whether I want to see the future at all or just find out as I go along.
shedding the filters
So I was intrigued last weekend at that party when a guy started talking to me with immediate honesty. I felt his desperation — not his desperation to romance me, because that was not his intent, but his desperation to grasp something solid in a world where people and moments are fleeting. He wanted to understand people and their need for validation from each other. He told me about something that was important to him, a project. He painted himself one way with insecurity but as we spoke I realized that he was trying to redefine himself and hadn’t figured out the answers yet. That’s not something to be insecure about. That’s something to grow from, but it’s easy to worry about it because to challenge what you already know is a risk. A lot of people settle for who they are and don’t recognize that they are not fulfilled. I might be a little vague but it’s hard to talk about this in text and I could never talk about it outside of text. It feels that personal. Anyway, I got this guy. I felt his need for fulfillment, something greater than himself, and I told him how endearing his honesty was in a place where people, including myself, answer “I’m great” because it’s easier than stirring up the cauldrons of our minds. Imagine if we did..
the quest for happiness…or meaning?
This leads me to the question of happiness and, yes, the meaning of life. Oh, yes, I’m going there. I’m going there because earlier this week I read an article in The Atlantic about happiness and how we are not meant to attain it. The article refers to concentration camp survivor and doctor Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. I read this book ten years ago in highschool and don’t think I realized how much it affected me or shaped my values as I grew up. I frequently find myself thinking about what is “meaningful” to me, which is how I think the guy I met last weekend feels. I was a bit relieved after reading that happiness will never be enough. Phew, I can stop beating myself up for feeling incomplete. Lately I’ve been “happy,” so to say, and I’m grateful for everything in my life. I say my prayers of gratitude to no god in particular, but it’s not enough. I always said that my goal in life was to be happy and that would be enough. Then, over the past three years, I discovered happiness. It took a long time but it’s there. Yet I haven’t discovered meaning, which I think will ultimately be more fulfilling.
the pursuit of happiness
It bothers me, though, that there is a constant push for happiness everywhere we look. This week, soon after reading this article, I noticed how much emphasis is put into the idea of happiness. Listening to the radio I heard the host on one show say “stay tuned because we’re going to help you with your pursuit of happiness” or something, and the next day I heard something along the lines of “let’s talk about all the things that make us happy” as if that’s…enough. All of it. This brings me back to why I feel it’s easy in Dubai, a place which is admittedly very self-serving and image conscious, to forget about everything else that matters. And I am guilty of that, too. Over here it’s easy to keep taking and taking and not give, which is what one study says is the “meaning” we are looking for — we’d rather be givers than takers. There have been a few times in my life where I’ve felt like more of a giver than a taker and that is the direction I’m heading back towards provided I don’t get distracted along the way.
What makes you “happy”, and is that enough? What represents “meaning” and purpose to you, and is that enough?