Most of the people I know aren’t happy. They put on brave faces and try to fit in, but in their hearts, they’re hurting — because their lives aren’t what they wanted them to be. Why do people live this way?
I’m thinking about this because of someone I met earlier this week. Her story reminded me of something from the personal life of Steve Jobs, but I’ll get to that in a moment. This woman is a teacher who lives in a nice suburban house and loves her two beautiful young children. Her attorney husband provides nicely for the family and treats her well. But she’s miserable when she’s honest, as she was with me Monday night.
What she doesn’t tell most people is that she’s in love with another man and she says she always will be. He loved her, too, and wanted to marry her a decade ago, but he lived in England and was going home after working in this country for a year. He was an architect and he had his own practice back home. He begged her to come with him, but she didn’t want to leave what she already had here.
So she said “goodbye” to him for the last time at the airport and they both promised to always love each other. In the meantime, she’s started raising two children with a man who provides well for her, but who can’t give her what she really needs inside. Just a couple of months ago, the English architect married, too. She says the new woman looks a lot like her. She says she hopes they’re happy, but her voice sounds hollow when she says it.
Her story reminds me of one from the life of Steve Jobs. It probably just comes to mind easily because of his death this week. In 1990, Jobs was speaking to a graduate business class at Stanford University. One of the grad students he met that night was Laurene Powell, an intelligent young Wharton graduate. They had exchanged phone numbers, but Jobs had a business dinner that night, so he left to get into his car. Jobs later said:
”I was in the parking lot, with the key in the car, and I thought to myself, If this is my last night on Earth, would I rather spend it at a business meeting or with this woman? I ran across the parking lot, asked her if she’d have dinner with me. She said yes, we walked into town and we’ve been together ever since.”
The contrast between the choices couldn’t be any more stark. One person was afraid to do whatever it took to find the happiness she wanted. The other was willing to take a risk — and ditch what other people thought was more important — to follow what his heart told him was right.
In my own life, I’ve sometimes done one and sometimes done the other. When I’ve followed my heart, I’ve generally been happy with the risks I’ve taken, even if they didn’t end up exactly as I wanted. When I’ve ignored what my heart told me, it’s led to misery for me — a misery that leads to reliving certain moments and wishing I had had to courage to overcome my fears and follow what my heart told me was right.
What about you? Are you happy with your life? Are your daily decisions bringing you what you want? If you’re not joyful about experiencing life, you’re doing something wrong. Even if you’re a fellow Christian who believes that this life can’t compare to the joy of experiencing God in the afterlife, He put us here to learn — and the Bible is full of evidence that we’re to be joyful.
Are you at the airport waving goodbye to what you really want? Are you sitting in your car with your hands on car keys, ready to start your car and take you in the direction everyone else thinks you should go? You face those choices every day. It’s your choice whether you let love and joy fly away from you or whether you flout popular wisdom and go back to ask the girl to go with you right now.
It’s your choice. No one else can make it for you. Whichever choice you make, you will live with the consequences for the rest of your life. Choose joy. Follow your heart.
Note: If you’d like to see the full-size version of the beautiful artwork above, check it out here. It’s no longer available, but it was a card someone was selling at Etsy.