You must login to vote
Looking back at the last 40 years of my life, I think occasionally of the eight or so years I spent working in Palliative Care, and all the people I met there, for the first time, at the end of their lives. I think of what they said, and of what they never said. And, even if I walked away from that field of practice, I remained interested in it and kept up with some of what continues to be written about it. A far-away colleague, a nurse in Australia, wrote a book she calls “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”.
Number one is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Yes. I’d heard that before, also, thousands of miles away from where she’d heard it, and often.
In our pursuit of happiness, do we conform to others’ expectations, or do we trailblaze our own expectations of ourselves, or is there something else we do, maybe a combination of both?
And what do we expect of and for ourselves? How much do others expect of us, and how much do we expect of ourselves? How important are appearances? Where, between nothing and everything, should the markers of our expectations, and the world’s expectations of us, be set? Why are our expectations of ourselves so different, so often, from the expectations others have of us?
When I was a girl, I was brought up to think I must marry and have children. My father would not provide financial help to me for University when I said I wanted to become a doctor, because I am a girl and so, should be happy with being “just” a nurse.
So I became a nurse, married and had two children, as my parents expected of me.
Over time, their expectations of me and my expectations of myself became more and more compatible with my pursuit of happiness. Lucky for me, because this spared me the effort of making radical changes in my life.
As years went by, I no longer regretted not becoming a doctor, and not marrying and not having children so I could become a doctor. As years went by, I settled in to a happiness I had not initially envisioned for myself, at 16.
What would my life have been if I had lived it “true to myself”, as a “bad daughter”? Who knows? And, really, who cares, now that I do not have that life. Maybe I would play golf, and love it, instead of abhorring it as I do.
Maybe I would have more money.
Would I be happier than what I am now? Not sure…
But what if I’d been lesbian, or transsexual and what if I’d wanted/needed a sex change? What if conforming had not been an option? Would I have been able to pursue happiness anyway? Maybe, through infidelity, drugs and alcohol, and other activities more edgy than mainstream.
Is the pursuit of bliss the same as the pursuit of happiness?
Initially, I suppose.
I’m not so sure I would have studied poetry as I do in this life, if I’d become a doctor instead…And without poetry and its beauty, there is, for me, less happiness to be had.
I, among many, did not have the "courage" of non-conformity. Must mean I, and many, are cowards.
Of all known institutions, I attend only two: church, in my heart, and school, in yours. Both are subject to demolition. - Lucie Adams, 2007
It is only for poetry to know how many stanzas fit into one caress. - Lucie Adams, 2008