I woke up at 5:30am this morning. It sucked. It was pitch dark but I had to get out and beat traffic. I fed the cats, got dressed, had breakfast, then drove to the gym for a 6am workout. Still dark. Finished my workout, had a shower, got back in the car, still dark out, and drove to work, sitting in traffic. People were cutting each other off, tailgating, and doing everything from eating to putting on makeup in the car. This is a normal day driving in Toronto, and I was thinking about how people curse and complain and hate getting up early and going to work, hate responsibility, hate working, etc.
I don’t feel that way at all. I’m glad I can get up early and work out. I’m happy to have a car to drive. I’m happy to sit in traffic because I get to think and listen to music, while going to a job I enjoy, that pays me enough money to support those I love and have great experiences. It could be because I just started this job a few weeks ago and haven’t gotten used to being a 9-5er yet, but its much more likely that I try to keep some perspective on how good I’ve got it.
There’s a lot of talk in our society about the 1%. How these corporate people have all the money and watch as the rest of us suffer. I have my own beefs with the corporate model, but that’s for another time. Go over to a global wealth list site, and put in your income, or even a fake income because why not. If you make $25,000 US a year, enough to live decently on in a city, you are among the top 10% of the richest people on the planet. Billions of people in this world live on less than $2 a day, and even they can be happy sometimes. And I know the complaints: “But I have more expensive bills.” “The cost of living is higher.” The problem is that we compare ourselves to our neighbors, our friends, and we listen to shitty media outlets that tell us we will never be happy unless we have money.
You are lucky. You live in a safe country, with free healthcare, clean drinking water, an abundance of food choices, and indoor plumbing (we take this one for granted the most). You have family and friends who are all in the same boat, and you have the time and freedom to choose what you do with your life. You have the money to buy things you want, and have access to technology that your grandparents and even parents could have never dreamed of. You can pay for millions of unique experiences that open your mind and feed your soul.
And yet, you complain. You wish you had more. Why? So you can be better than your friend or neighbor? So you can be a little bit happier? So you can be remembered after you die? Well I have news for you. You won’t be remembered. Maybe your children and grandchildren will remember you for a few decades, but for most of us that’s it. You could have struck it rich, and given donations to build amazing buildings with your name on them. But look at the world around you, how many of those buildings do you look at and think “Wow the person who got rich and donated money for this place must have been so amazing.” You don’t give a damn about the person who built it. Why should you?
Let’s go a step further. Maybe you do change the world, maybe you are like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or a politician who runs their country. Maybe your nation thrives and remembers you for a few generations. Maybe you are a famous scientist, explorer, or inventor, and you are remembered for a few centuries or maybe even millennia, if you’re truly successful. But even then, time will continue, and you will eventually be forgotten.
Whether it’s a few centuries, millennia, or longer, humanity will eventually die out. Nothing lasts forever, and everything will be forgotten. This thought can make people sad, but I say it should make you happy. It means that right now you are alive. Against all odds you have survived on a typical planet orbiting a typical star, out of all the others in the universe. You have evolved for nearly 4 Billion years with a brain and a body that allow you to explore the universe around you. And what little time you have to enjoy it should not be spent complaining and wishing you had more.
It should be spent learning and growing and enjoying the amazing world. It should be spent bonding with other people and other species, reveling in the beauty of nature, creating something worth sharing with the world, and passing on your knowledge and experience in any way you can, because even though your mind and body won’t live for long, the uncountable atoms that make you up will continue on to the end of the universe.
So if you aren’t happy, then change your perspective, or change what you’re doing. No one else is responsible for your happiness. You only have one life, and you will be forgotten, so you might as well enjoy it, without fear.
And if you see a guy smiling while sitting in traffic, wave at me, and smile back.