“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Philosopher Albert Camus.
The plan was so clear when I was in my early 20’s and the comfort that came from that certainty was amazing. I knew exactly where I needed to go and had a very specific detailed “Plan”. I’m an organizer and I had organized my life to my end goal, or so I thought.
I approached each challenge like a mountain to climb, where each mountain was to lead me to my civilization, a place called happiness. With my hiking boots on, backpack full of supplies, and walking stick in hand, I started on that clearly mapped trek. At the summit of each mountain, I knew exactly which mountain to tackle next.
Undergrad, acceptance to vet school, complete first year of vet school, then second year, externships, etc. With time, more peaks began to rise in front of me providing me with directions to go away from the clearly mapped trek. At first it was clear the direction to follow, in time the direction became hazy.
Over time the supplies in my backpack dwindled, the stick broke some where back on mountain 8, and there I stood, at the top of yet another mountain with no idea which way civilization was. In that moment I realized I create civilization, and that meant civilization was where ever I stood on whatever mountain I was on in that moment.
Making camp and holding my own during difficult weather or when drinking water was sparse, was not easy. But in time I found others to camp with and I realized, I am not alone and the reality is that there is no “plan”. It is just me and my civilization, that I create as I walk forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll gladly take on a difficult hike up a new mountain and at times I may have to hunker down for a wicked snowstorm. The difference is today I embrace the struggle, because I know the struggle is the path to my happiness. The “plan” is vague, and that is okay. Reality is hard and in fact can suck at times, and that is okay too.
I’m content because I have a vision in mind, and this vision is nothing like I’m mindlessly running around a mountain range with no clothes on hoping I don’t die of exposure. The path is not a “plan” but in fact the one I choose, and now I enjoy civilization along the way.
Another way to look at the mountains is the concept of The Backwards Law noted by philosopher Alan Watts (The Wisdom of Insecurity published in 1951). The more effort we put into climbing those mountains to find civilization, the farther the civilization is to us. In other words the harder we work to find happiness, the more unhappy we become. As you dig into this concept Watts shares we can see that pain is a way that can lead us to having a better awareness of a more desirable path, however without the pain we do not know the path to contentment.
Each mountain along the way has both negative and positive aspects. In order to continue toward the peak of a mountain or relax into a valley, we must embrace them both. The beautiful open meadow with fresh water is easy to embrace, the agonizing incline scampering over large boulders, not so much.
We value the meadow because of the experience we had with the incredibly intense incline and we welcome the incline away from the meadow knowing that another vista of amazing beauty is to be provided to us at the top of that incline. We do not stop at the peak, we look for the next meadow to explore and the next incline to tackle. That is life. We look at the negative as not bad and the positive as good, but that in fact both are part of us that are equally required and without them both, there is no us.
On this journey through the mountains there is a start point (birth) and an end point (death) with countless important steps along the way. Often we make adjustments when we have determined that we started up the wrong mountain or perhaps the valley is too steep. Each of those steps is valuable and important in working to come to the “end point”. We can’t skip a step, nor linger at one for too long, in the end we keep moving forward, tackling each new mountain.
In addition, the goal is not about the end result, death, it is all the steps along the way. I mean we are not born only to look forward to death. We are here to enjoy each of those steps and embrace the uncertainty that comes from the fact that we don’t know what step 10 could hold, while we are involved with step 5.
We know we are moving towards that future step, but it is unclear and uncertain what that looks like. That is where happiness lies, because happiness is not a “plan” we develop, it is actually the value in each step as they present themselves, some related to positive moments and others negative. When we accept uncertainty, things become all that more clear and comfortable.
Step 10 is where one may be today, and step 20 is in the distance, maybe even many mountain ranges away, we work to embrace the uncertainty of its place. Following core values and passion allows us to have confidence we are on the path we should be on. With each mountain we tackle we work on creating our civilization as we go, embracing both the positive and negative aspects of the path, and we take the next step into the uncertain trek that is our life’s journey.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
About the Author
Kimberly Pope-Robinson is a veterinarian life coach who started the 1 Life Connected movement, www.1lifecc.com in 2015. She is dedicated to helping the profession connect their career with their life’s passion. 1 Life Connected creates the space to give us each permission to find our unique path towards suitability in the veterinary industry. Dr. Pope authored the book “The Unspoken Life, Recognize your Passion, Embrace Imperfection, and Stay Connected” which provides a framework in helping the veterinary profession find well-being in the lifestyle we call a career.