Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kismet (or is it conceit?) and The Happiness Project

Ever have one of those moments where everything you read, watch, or hear seems to relate to you and what you are experiencing at that particular moment?

Some might say this occurs because you've opened your heart up to the universe allowing it to speak to your soul. Others might call it kismet. Some, coincidence. 

I call it conceit.

 In me, at least, because this happens so ridiculously often. 

Admittedly, I don't think this happens because I value myself so highly that I believe I am the target audience for every artist out there, but I must be pretty me-centric to always be thinking about myself and my problems or idiosyncrasies so that they are in the forefront of my mind and instantly relatable to any pop culture I brush by. (The one exception when I wasn't alone in my belief that I was the target audience was when my husband told me I had to listen to Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling because he felt like she and I could be bashert - my word, not his...I really only used it to make my aunt proud).

Anyway, this happened last night with The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. 

I was all in a tizzy after work, because I wasn't sure I was going to get to teach a course that is going to be created next year...a course, I told my employer last year when I interviewed and at least twice this year that I really, really, really wanted to and  pretty please  I would do anything (yikes! I might have actually said those words!) to teach. 

He has reasons for overlooking my talent and one of them is that it would give me slightly less to do, two planning periods instead of one. I hate when your supervisor actually listens to your biggest complaint and tries to fix it, don't you? It's so hard to battle altruism! As, I left his office, I asked my co-worker who had witnessed this awkward passive aggressive exchange between us consisting of "Well, I don't think it will work because..." and "But maybe it could if..." if I should just give up the fight.

She replied that I shouldn't if I really wanted it, and (as she pointed out) I had even told her when she interviewed me that I wanted to teach it. However, she tried to mollify me, even if I didn't teach it next year, he did seem open to the idea of me teaching it a few years down the road.

As soon as she mentioned down the road, I started down my own imaginary road where a few years from now, I would hypothetically be having a baby, in grad school, starting a new career (?), or embarking on another grand adventure and so I absolutely need to teach the course now, because in two years, my life will be radically different. 

Or would it? And that idea of having two planning periods and only one prep, is so tempting. And if I did want my life to be different (and haven't I been saying that for the last four years?), shouldn't I make sure that I didn't take on additional projects, so maybe, just for once, I would be free to pursue these grand plans (like maintaining a blog)?

I had convinced myself, and perhaps even you, that I would forgo the opportunity to create and teach this course -yes, forgo an opportunity that is most likely not even going to be offered to me, but in my conceit one that I think I could have if I fight hard enough - and I was at peace (more at peace after I called a friend to confirm this sage like decision).

That is until I called my husband and asked him to confirm it. And he didn't.

He mentioned how I'm better when I'm busy, how I need to be challenged, how I'd be bored teaching the one prep to students that aren't my best demographic, and other such true but decision shattering points.

So I did what I always do when I don't know what to do and don't want to text a friend, I decided to ignore the situation that wasn't even really a situation and read a book. Here's where the kismet comes in.

In The Happiness Project, Rubin quotes William Butler Yeats who wrote, "Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing not that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing." She goes on to say that researchers are saying "it isn't the goal attainment but the process of striving after goals - that is growth - that brings happiness" (66-7). 

This made so much sense to me and my desire to teach this course. Despite going to a new school with a new philosophy and teaching one new course at the current time, a lot of my work is largely the same and I don't feel like I am growing. The course I want to teach is one that has challenged me in the past and provides me with the intellectual stimulation I need to be at the top of my game and continue to improve as a scholar and a teacher. 

If I don't teach this course, if I settle into, what I perceive to be an easier option (although, I'm working pretty damn hard at this easy option already), then I will have to seek my intellectual stimuli elsewhere and like a junkie, I'm afraid to make it through the work day without a fix of it. I also view work as my supplier and feel let down when it doesn't meet my needs, a possible reason why I've been unhappy in my profession over the last few years. 

I want to be able to let it go, to take the gift my supervisor is offering me gratefully and not be Veruca Salt wanting it "nooow", and, ultimately, I'm most likely going to have to.

The truth is, though, I'm not sure it will make me happy and that is a problem. I identify myself through my occupation and the ability it affords me to grow and change each year with the courses I teach and the students' needs.

Still, even if I do end up teaching the course, I  fear it will only be a stopgap. I will grow with the course for a few years, but then will be in the same cycle or "hedonic treadmill" where it's "easy to grow accustomed to some of things that make you "feel good," such as a new car, a new job title, or air-conditioning" or a new school, or a new course, "so that the good feeling wears off" (67).

And then what?

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