If You’re Chasing Happiness, Stop.
Posted on June 11 2018
A few months ago, I came across a video interview featuring Anthony Bourdain. Although I’d often wondered, it was the first time I’d ever heard his “how” story. I’ve always been fascinated by destiny, and in every good story of destiny, there’s a turning point. A phone call, an email, an elevator pitch, a youtube view that catapults each person from dreamer to doer. For Anthony Bourdain, that moment was when his mother passed along an article he’d written on a whim (and which wasn’t getting much traction at the time) to a colleague at The New Yorker.
“I wrote an article, my mom actually said, ‘You should send it to The New Yorker,’ and I mean, the next day, I got a call saying we’ll give you 50 grand to write a book…”
His mother actually worked as a copy editor for the New Yorker at that time. As fate would have it, it also happened that she was stationed in the same newsroom as editor, David Remnick’s wife, Esther Fein. She asked Esther if she could share her son’s piece of work with David and the rest is history.
That article became a book and that book, Kitchen Confidential would of course change his life. A destiny defining moment, leading to the launch of several television opportunities, traveling around the world and bringing him into each of our homes. To so many of us, he was living the dream. His thirst for discovery and newness, his taste for adventure, his wit and charm and how he connected with different cultures appealed to the core of who we are. He was doing what we wished we could all be doing – he was truly “living”.
“Wherever you go, there you are”
We all have an idea in our heads of a moment when things will finally come together in our worlds. All the stars will align and finally, we will be “happy”. We chase this ever-elusive moment and when it doesn’t come, we chase it some more. There’s of course nothing the mind loves more than a good chase. Sometimes, we get that moment and then because life is flux, it changes. We begin the chase all over again.
“When I’m married…when I’m famous…when I’m rich…”
This journey was never intended for one moment of perfection. It’s why we call it a journey. Sometimes, seeing moments of other people’s lives on television or social media makes us feel like we’re missing out on something; we feel that others have found that thing that we want the most. We get a fire in our bellies to chase after what they have. It is nothing more than what we have. So, stop.
There is nothing outside of you that can truly make you happy because it was never designed to. There is nothing outside of you that can complete you. That idea is an illusion. The core of who you are remains the same in singleness or in a couple; in richness or in a supposed state of lack; with or without a job. These things are life situations – transient, flowing in and out as they were designed to. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. The spirit is the constant, the never changing, solid core.
“He had everything, success beyond his wildest dreams. Money beyond his wildest dreams. He is absolutely the last person in the world I would have ever dreamed would do something like this.” - Gladys Bourdain via The New York Times
We’ll never know what Anthony Bourdain was thinking in those last moments. We can’t change the past. The fact is, he was always very honest about his “chase”. Whether it was through drugs, food or travel, he was looking for something that he obviously never found. What his life and ultimately death, confirm to those of us still here is that everything that has the power to make you happy also has the power to make you unhappy. Everything that has the power to create, also has the power to destroy. With every high, eventually comes a low. This is the ying and yang of life. The acceptance of this leads to a peace that surpasses all understanding.
“I choose peace”
Instead of chasing happiness, I choose peace. It is an act of surrender and acceptance of whatever form life chooses to take at any given time. The moments of peace come and go but even in the times that peace seemingly isn’t present, there’s an awareness that I can choose differently. What I cherish has also changed over the years. I still take inspired action but I am truly aware of the moments that really count. I just came back from a phenomenal trip to South America. That trip was filled with many highs and I can say that I was present in those moments. This weekend, I took a stroll with my brother. The sun was bright and warm. We had some ice cream while people watching. We had unexpected conversations with strangers. It was light, it was fun and it brought me joy – there was nothing more to chase.