I read an article a few days ago that started off talking about how people want to make their dreams come true, and it reminded me of this video (also by Dr Brené Brown, whom I mentioned two posts back). In the video, Dr Brown says she and her husband made two lists: first, they listed down all the things they wanted, things they thought would make their lives more comfortable, would make them happier. Then they made a second list of all the things that have happened to make them happy, the times they were most joyful.
When they compared the two lists, they realised that the evidence pointed to the fact that having the things they wanted would not make them happier. The second list showed that "less work and more time" brought more happiness, whereas the first list suggested that they needed to work more, earn more money, be more successful in order to be happy. They had been living under a fallacy.
In fact I think a lot of us live under similar assumptions. We are seduced into thinking a certain lifestyle is THE way to live, and we fall into it without a second thought. It doesn't occur to us to question if this should be or not; we take it as if it simply is.
Last Monday I posted on Facebook that the incrediby hot and humid weather over the past couple of days was making me wish I had installed air-conditioning in my bedroom. My friends reacted with shock when they found out I don't have air-conditioning in my home! They kept urging me to get a unit installed.
I cannot fully explain my intransigence against having an air-conditioned bedroom, except to say that to me, it is a symbol of how easily we fall into a certain type of lifestyle. I like my creature comforts as much as the next person; I love going to hotels beause of the super-comfy beds and air-conditioning (and the fact that I don't have to do any cleaning!). But deep down I sometimes wonder if we aren't getting too comfortable, and taking too much for granted. Many of my peers cannot imagine living without air-conditioning, without Astro, without a car (okay, I admit this one is tough for me too), without a live-in maid to help babysit, cook and clean.
A friend was talking to me recently about having a 10-year plan: Finish your Masters, he said, take a year's break, then start your PhD; graduate in five years, move up the ladder, write a few papers, become an associate professor by the time you are 44. And you see, it made perfect sense to him because that is what society thinks is good and desirable.
But I do not want to do the accepted just because it is expected. When people hear that I am an English teacher, they often suggest that I could give English tuition to students on the side because it is a lucrative enterprise, or tell me to go to China, since English teachers are in demand over there and I would be able to command a higher salary. Even Christians say these things, as if it is natural that we should want to make more money, and try our best to do so. It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that I might not want to make more money. What an alien concept!
That's why I think that identity is such a fundamental issue. It's so important for us to we know who we are. If you don't know who you are, you will end up following the crowd blindly, or listening to anyone who comes along. You will be seduced by society's concept of "success" without realising that true success is being true to yourself and faithfully fulfilling whatever it is God has called you to do. You may never be contented, because right now the world we live in keeps telling us we never have enough, that we deserve more, that bigger is better and newer is nicer.
It's not about having or doing, but about being. Achieving our dreams of having more, doing more or becoming more won't make us happier because we will only be fulfilled when we are the person whom God made us to be. Each of us has been made unique. Instead of trying to be like everyone else -- or better than everyone else -- we should seek Him; seek to be like Him, seek to fulfil His purpose for our lives. And always remember: God is bigger than this.