Define Happiness

For the longest time, I’m certain I didn’t know the answer to that question.

Already being a douche, Dickmoji? Getting an early start with this blog, aren’t you? You know what I meant: although the title doesn’t end with a question mark, it is asking to provide a definition for the state of happiness. And that’s the crux—that I’m not exactly sure what happiness is. What I do know is what happiness isn’t—something I learned through many years of…life.

I had a decade or two of loneliness, insecurities and depression. I don’t have to consult Webster’s Dictionary; I know that’s not happiness. But again, what is happiness? And honestly, why am I even asking that question?

It’s more than that, asshole. It’s a deep, philosophical conundrum, one that was posed by my boss, directed towards me. It went like this:

I was called into my boss’s office to discuss a “reorganization.” Prior to the discussion, I was head of two departments: Quality and Technology (Our company’s misleading and fancy name for Metallurgical Engineering. Come to think of it, Metallurgical Engineering is actually fancier.🤷‍♂️). After the meeting, Quality was no longer under my supervision. I was effectively demoted (without any financial implications, but with the loss of respect. Not that I cared about that, since I already lost all respect for my boss, and my company. But that’s another story, for another time.).

Author’s aside: I know I mentioned I’d reserve for a later date the rationale behind why I no longer respect my boss. But I can’t resist, at least a little bit. My boss routinely professes to care about his employees and that “it’s all about the people.” Yet if an individual misses time due to a serious hospitalization, this “leader” questions a person’s loyalty to the company. This, coming from a man who missed a few months due to his own medical concerns. Hypocrisy much, “boss?” And right there is reason number twenty-four for why I could care less what that this individual says, or does.

After the demotion, the conversation changed course. For many years now, my general displeasure and lack of enthusiasm has been plainly evident. As a result, my boss asked me if I was happy. He prefaced the question with an anecdote from his own life, where his former girlfriend dumped him, indicating she wasn’t happy.

Normally, I’d be annoyed with your sarcasm, Dickmoji. But in this case? Love it. Wait. Strike that. I take that back. Although my boss is a douche, I take no pleasure in his relationship failures. That’d be kinda petty, no?

Yeah, that wasn’t a good look, Dickmoji. It was a weak moment, one where I was kinda seeking revenge, kinda thinking he deserved what he got. But I’m better than that. At least, I like to think I am.

Let’s get back to my regularly scheduled blog, Dear Reader:

So after my boss shared his troubles and that his former girlfriend indicated she wasn’t happy, he turned to me and said, “What does that even mean, to be happy? Are you happy, Mark.” Now clearly, his motivation for the question was to suss out my obvious displeasure at working there, but still, in a broader sense, it kinda hit home. What is happiness?

At the time, I responded, “I’m happier now,” which prompted his retort: “Why is that?” Again, his probing had nothing to do with any concern for me on a personal level; it was strictly to determine how my attitude might affect the company. But my response was simply, “Because I’m at peace. I’ve accepted that some things are out of my control, like the health of my daughter.”

To put things in perspective, my middle daughter has suffered from a serious debilitating chronic illness since she was about eight. She’s turning 22 in a week or so and she’s had a damn feeding tube for close to ten years. Watching her waste away physically, seeing the love of her life—soccer—taken away at a time where she was clearly the most dominant player on her travel team, and witnessing her slip further and further into depression? Absolutely heartbreaking. I felt helpless and I was terrified at the ever-looming prospect of losing her, either to her disease or to suicide. I was a basket case, utterly sad, with breakdowns occurring on a regular basis. Hearing a random song or seeing an old “healthy” Lauren picture or attending another fruitless doctor visit? Any of those were prime candidates to trigger a sobbing episode. I was wallowing. I was lost. I was the antithesis of “happy.”

And of course, I paraphrased this to my boss. Despite talking about my daughter’s health on several prior conversations, he acted like he had heard it for the first time. If it wasn’t job-related, the prick could care less. One more in the long list of reasons I have little respect for the dude.

With one superficial comment implying that he cared and understood how it felt to have a seriously ill child, the conversation was over. But we knew the truth. We both knew. My boss didn’t give a shit about my daughter’s health.

Demoted, but unconcerned because my wallet was unaffected, I walked out of the office. But the question lingered: What does it mean to be happy?

Although I still struggle with the answer, I do know that pursuing activities that don’t serve you and that bore you to tears are not conducive to fostering that elusive state of mind. For close to a decade, I stayed in my profession solely for the money. But it sucked the soul out of me. Something else was calling me: my passion. Regardless of the financial implications, it was time for a change. I knew that fact prior to being demoted, during my boss’s shallow conversation, and I knew it after. Another reason I didn’t give a fuck about the demotion was that I had plans in place that did not include working for that man any longer.

On my vision board was a date where I’d resign. It didn’t really matter to me that I had no Plan B. Plan A drew a line in the sand.

But life is funny, isn’t it? Although I had the date I was to resign already written in stone…

Thanks for that unnecessary clarification, asshole. Ever hear of an idiom, Dickmoji?

With my vocabulary lesson out of the way, let’s return to my story:

So yeah, I knew I was going to resign and yeah, I didn’t know what I was going to do to replace that income. I was kinda in limbo, struggling to find my new career path. And then, as it often does in life, the unexpected happened: my health decided to take a downward spiral. With debilitating stroke-like symptoms, terrifying paralysis and the inability to speak, coupled with horrendous worse-than-childbirth pain, I was forced to go out on short-term disability. My timeline for leaving work was drastically shortened.

Out of work, I had plenty of time to consider the second half of my life. What did I want to do with the balance of my days? Quickly, it became clear. Ecommerce and writing, not necessarily in that order.

I’d always wanted to be an entrepreneur. For a while, I pursued real estate, renting and flipping properties. But I did it with shitty motivations—FOMO and not wanting my friend—and partner—to succeed while I sat on the sidelines. I’m not proud of that, but there it is. On top of that, my heart wasn’t in it—the shit was hard and many times, supremely inconvenient. Like when our tenant’s refrigerator died, requiring scrubbing the weekend plans to purchase a new one and having to lug the fridge back in torrential rains, only to find that the doorway had to be busted out and reinstalled. Why? The previous owner didn’t think it necessary to make an access suitable to accommodate replacing appliances. Multiply that experience by two-hundred other headaches over the course of a decade, combined with the hour and a half physical distance from my home to the rental property and yeah, no thanks. Give me something else. Ecommerce fits that “something else” bill just fine, satisfying the need to work from home along with the potential financial upside. It’s exciting, with a world of opportunities and endless avenues. Together with my wife, the rock star and boss of the venture, we get to carve out our own path.

Author’s aside and hopefully only slightly obnoxious sales pitch: Check out our websites here and here. We’ve got some cool stuff, in our opinion.

And my other source of income? Writing. It’s my passion. I’ve known it for years. But I resisted it’s calling, stuffing it in the closet, settling for complacency instead. Settling for the stability of a steady paycheck. But that definitely doesn’t foster happiness, does it?

I guess I am, aren’t I? So happiness, what are you? Maybe it’s a bit like baking a cake, requiring several ingredients: good health for yourself and for those around you; strong relationships with spouse, family, and friends; and…chasing your dreams. And…not throwing anything in the mix that ruin the cake. Like unsupportive and toxic associations. Or saying yes to too many things that seem like obligations, rather than desires. Or ignoring your passions. Keep that shit out of your recipe, brah.

And what about me? Am I happy? Like I told my boss ex-boss, I’m waaaay happier now. Not completely, because my daughter is still suffering with illness and because my relationships with my children are strained. But beyond that, I’m checking a long of happiness boxes.: my wife is a dream and being with her is more magical than I ever knew possible; my friends are amazing and I am pursuing my passions. I’ve just published a book, for chrissakes. Get off your wallet and get it on Amazon. Don’t be cheap, Dear Reader.

Find your reasons, find your why’s, chase your dreams and…find your happiness, Dear Reader. Peace.


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