Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men…”

meine maus

I’m a planner. Every big decision is cycled through my brain countless times. Every possible outcome is considered. Once the strongest arguments for and against have been culled, I pose them to my friends and relatives to get as many varied perspectives on the issue as possible. Then I cycle it some more. Then I take action. I do this simply to give myself the best chance for a happy future. Success? Read on.

First, it’s important to know that I’m in law school. I’m two months into my first year. I decided to go into law school after spending four years strategically pursuing, and failing to find, a fulfilling career in marketing and public relations. After each failed attempt the planning cycle began anew, and at the end I found myself enrolling in law school—finally facing a worthy challenge, and as I saw it, my last chance at catching-up with that “happy future” that had turned out to be surprisingly elusive.

As some of you may know, surviving the first few weeks of law school requires some pretty intense adjustments. Once I got through that and finally had a chance to take a breath, I realized that I had yet to care about anything that I had learned. After a brief moment of panic, I focused on the fact that this was the first month of the first year, and it was bound to improve. It didn’t. I got through midterms with respectable academic success, but that wasn’t enough to outweigh the fact that I still hated law school. That realization led to real panic—my last chance for happiness was slipping through my proverbial fingers.

Melodrama aside, to an introspective planner like me, things don’t get much more bleak. Of course my natural reaction was to figure out what had gone wrong. After a few days without shaving and eating nothing but cold cereal, it hit me. (For those of you anticipating an incredible epiphany about the meaning of life, now is the time to lower your expectations) As embarrassingly cheesy as it may be, I realized that in spending so much time and energy in strategically planning my perfect future, I had stopped giving myself permission to focus on what would make me happiest right now.

I wish that solved everything, but alas, focusing on what makes me happy doesn’t pay very well, and as painful as it has been to admit, I believe it is only a lucky few who can find that perfect career, getting paid to do what they love. For the rest of us the key is finding an enjoyable job that allows us the freedom to do the things that that we really care about.

Does this mean that I’ve figure out what that job is? Nope, I don’t have a clue, but in case you’re curious, it has made one thing clear—law school is not even close. So, tomorrow is the day I become a law school dropout. What then? I don’t know, happiness I hope, but I’m certainly not planning on it.


  1. Hmmm. I think you should stay in law school. It is an opportunity that most do not have, and I was feeling so inspired when I read that you were picking yourself up over and over. Personal story: I am in a position of having sought the perfect job, for me. I was certain that it would provide means and fulfillment in my life, and I was not hired after a year-long job interview. Something inside of me is still broken from that experience. Your experience resonated with me, and I liked that you entered law school after your attempts to get a job in other fields, because your possibilities after law school will be manifold. I think you might suffer in the short term, but in the long term, you will have pride, and hopefully, wisdom. Those things come at the cost of “now.” Good luck to you- H

  2. Levitation, you raise an interesting series of points/quandaries for the contemporary reader. The Greeks would be proud to know their ideas have stretched this far–and perhaps a little confused because their far reaching ideas still don’t touch our existential anxiety. I resonate with your decision process. It’s one thing to commit to something difficult, to make sacrifices, to see years of one’s life go to something that seems in the moment unfulfilling; it’s quite another to follow that rainbow to a chamber pot instead of a pot of gold.

    Without spending too long on mixed metaphors, I’d like to pose two questions. First, do we even know what happiness is? It seems to drive much of our decision making, but do we even know what fits into the category ‘happiness?’

    And second…well, there is no second question, not till we tackle the first one.

  3. I really appreciate your comment. I can certainly see how it would appear that staying in law school makes sense, especially considering the limited background contained in my blog post. However, this decision has come with a lot more careful consideration than I cared to share in a blog post. Suffice it to say, that I know without a doubt that law school, in spite of its potential rewards, is not the right path for me. And, for a logical person like myself to be able to admit that, and move out into the unknown, is the biggest positive step I have made in my career search so far.

    Good luck to you as well.

  4. Do we need to be able to categorize happiness in order to experience it? It seems, though we may not be able to articulate what happiness is, we can still know when we are or are not happy. I personally would ask, what is it that really makes us experience happiness, regardless of our individual interpretations of the word. The challenge then is separating the things that make us forget our unhappiness from the things that actually make us happy.

    Maybe that’s too simple. Maybe that’s not even your point.

  5. Happiness. Happiness is the orgasm of life. The peice of chocolate cake with ice cream and a cherry. It’s those special moments that resonate with us and make us smile, laugh, hug someone.
    I personally think we often confuse happines for peace. If life were one giant happy, meals were one giant dessert and sex was only orgasm would it have any meaning? Would it continue to be pleasurable?
    Peace on the other hand is something that can float around us and in us no matter what. A sense of peace can be permanent and a sense of happiness is a wonderful temporary.

  6. Levitation: I’m glad that you realized that you hate law school fairly early, and that you are acting on that realization. I hope you next step on something wonderful (like moss).

    I think a lot of times what we call “happiness” has to do with avoidance, and “peace” to do with void. But I like what pebble said better. When I have cake, I want to eat it too. When I don’t have cake, I want to be OK with Fig Newtons.

  7. well said

  8. levitation! i am surprised. i’m also impressed that you have been so public about your decision and the reasoning. my two cents about happiness: it is indefinable, but clearly recognizable when encountered. (i realize this rules out many times when an experience improves in one’s memory as it recedes in time, but i chalk that up to wishful thinking and/or a coping mechanism – not saying either of those are always a bad thing – and wouldn’t call that happiness) so how to encounter it, right now, in the present? honesty is required, and also openness to the present. and nothing says ‘i’m open to the present’ more than dropping out of law school, my friend!!!

  9. Its nice to see another thinking being. I believe that happiness comes from two things: realizing truth (or “God” or the “Divine” or what have you), and sharing our “truth” or reality, or gift with the world (kind of like a light bulb, it’s gotta come in and go out to make us spark). The “job” or course is the going “out”. Many people are willing to compromise being fulfilled because they live in fear that if they step out and do what they really want to do, they might not be able to make a living at it, they might starve, they might die. This of course is due to the fact that they haven’t realized the first truth, but even so, I would rather be dead then live in misery. With this notion, I have pursued my interests. I’ve had many jobs, (including acting) and many wonderful experiences as a result, even though I received little to no support from anyone because they didn’t think I could make a living at it. After all this time, I still can’t say I’ve found the perfect little niche for myself, but I am a heck of a lot closer to it then I was many years ago when I launched off into taboo. And it keeps getting better. Let go of fear. Live as though you can’t fail. There may be pain along the way, but it will dim in comparison to the reward.

    BTW, might I recommend journalism? You are observant and analytical. True (and objective) journalism looks at things from every perspective possible.