Spring had just settled comfortably over New York, and I was restless. I had just recovered – although in reality not completely so – from a bad cold, and I left my home and the grotesque mounds of used tissues I had amassed over the past few days, to spend some time in nature.
I took off for my favorite camping grounds at Bear Spring Mountain and with all the energy I could muster tromped through some of the trails the area had to offer. It was wonderful. The sun’s rays made tiny incisions through the morning chill allowing bits of warmth to come down on the back of my neck.
Then, not unlike Newton’s apple, it struck me. I had realized something. I was happy. For the first time in my life, I was completely and unequivocally happy. I was in New York, about 1,000 miles away from my home in South Florida. It was a place that I hadn’t had any interest in visiting, even as a tourist, but here I was, and I honestly had no genuine reason to be displeased with my life.
About four years ago I finished my degree in graphic design in Albany and got a job in the city soon after and decided to make New York my home. It was almost heartbreaking leaving the friends and family I knew my whole life, but I had been determined to make it on my own in the Big Apple. I thought if I could do that; I could then return home happy and successful
I know now that’s how it had always been for me. I barreled through life setting deadlines for myself attempted to bend my reality into some cast iron framework that would ensure my future happiness. My happiness was always on the horizon, on the distant shore of tomorrow and never right in front of me. When I was in school, it was looking four years down the line to graduation, in my career it was getting to a position I wanted in that organization. In past relationships, it was thinking about marriage and what my future with that person would look like years later. I had never enjoyed the moment I was in.
Fast forward to where I’m standing in Bear Spring Mountain staring down a green tunnel of trees with the initials S.S.S. carved into one of them, realizing that I had all of George Washington Burnap’s essentials to happiness: “something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” The new sleeping bag I picked up at Cabela’s is so incredibly comfortable that it reminds me of snuggling up in my Merino wool sleeping sack when I was a little kid.
What I did lack were epic long term plans to which I could devote every waking moment to and thank heaven I did not. Here, far away from home and in many ways far away from the old me, I don’t care to make plans set any further in the future than returning to my tent and taking a nap.
There are many keys to happiness, but one of them is letting go and giving up that illusion of control. This is not to say you shouldn’t be sensible and do things like save or prepare for significant events like the birth of a child. That would be reckless. What I’m saying is never sacrifice the miracle now on the altar of plans.
Nihilists who believe that existence has no objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value may ultimately be right. But, when it comes down to it; what does that point of view even matter either? I don’t think that the point of life is figuring out what the point of life is. In my mind, there is no greater justification for moment to moment living than that.