So, following on from making dreams come true, lets swing the conversation in a different direction and talk about the ‘Happily Ever After Illiusion’. You see it all the time. The princess riding off into the sun set with her prince. The old couple sitting in your local pub, still happily married after 30 years. Still going out every Saturday night just like they have done every week since 1982! The old fella on the train telling you about the 30 years he worked in the Navy.
Do you remember that time at school when you had to pick your options and decide, at 14, what you wanted to do when you left university! I remember all this pressure about what you had to pick because you needed to get good GCSE’s to get good A-levels, to get on to the right degree course, because you know those are really hard to get onto. All so you can get a ‘good’ job and buy a nice house and a nice car and live happily ever after. At 14. Like seriously, what the fuck? My mum was still making my tea and toast at that age!
My husband Tonny and I have just celebrated our 20 year anniversary. 10 years married, 20 years together. And it got me thinking. What made us last twenty years? Are we classed as living Happily Ever After.? Because God knows not all of those years have been good. But on the surface we look like the happily ever couple. The couple people strive to be. Good looking, fun at parties, beautiful kids, good careers, luxury holidays. But there have been times when we have absolutely wanted to kill each other. Did Cinderella, I wonder, ever chuck her glass slipper at Prince Charming’s head? Did Cinderella ever roll in drunk after a night out at the ball and spew all over Princes Charming’s bathroom so that when he staggered in after her he nearly slipped and fell? (True story!)
At school we’re told to pick a career to study towards at university so we can get a good career (the work happily ever after myth). At sixteen when most people have never even had a job! So how the hell will we know what will make us happy? Until we go out and experiment. We look at all these successful people who are 30,40,50 and have a dream lifestyle. But that’s just the surface. What we don’t see is what journey they took to get there. We mistakingly believe they landed in their dream job but how many different jobs did they have along the way? Have they done that job for 30 years or have they bounced about a bit before they learned what they were successful at. Or more importantly, what they enjoyed. I’ve actually lost count of the amount of jobs I’ve had. And to be honest, I used to feel really bad about that. My husband has only worked for 2 companies in the twenty years we’ve been together. But as a coach, I’ve learned that as people we are all geared to think in different ways. Some people thrive on change (like me) some people thrive on stability (like Tonny). But there is a huge amount of pressure for us to just find that one thing to make us happy whether it be a house, a career or a life long partner.
But what it actually boils down to is we are living in a society that fears diversity and change. And I don’t mean that in a racist, white supremacist, everything that isn’t A1 Typical is bad. I mean people are scared of failing. Of things ending. But living happily ever after IS an illusion. Life would be pretty damn boring if there was only one thing out there that could make you happy. Imagine a world where you only had your one favourite flavour of ice cream. It would be amazing wouldn’t it? But after 5 years would it still be amazing?
Take the man who was in the Navy for 30 years for example. Maybe he wanted to be a builder, or a singer or a ballet dancer. Maybe what he isn’t telling you is that he absolutely hated the sea but when he was a teenager signing up for the Navy seemed like a good idea at the time. And every time he came home from sea everyone was so proud of him, at how well he was doing. Well he couldn’t exactly turn round and say he spent his first trip spewing all over the Atlantic could he? It would ruin the illusion. So he kept plodding on. And next thing he knew 30 years had passed and (sorry for the pun) he found his happiness ship had sailed.
My old English teacher told me that when she left school she was told to be a teacher because she did well at her exams. So she did. She had a very long and distinguished career and all the other teachers loved her. But she was an absolute twat. And she made loads of kids miserable every day, every year, for decades! And if we hated her lessons, maybe she did too. So what was the point? Because people feel they have to live up to other people’s expectations. But why?
Because deep down, we are scared of letting people down. Of letting ourselves down. But most of all, we’re scared of making the wrong choice! But good or bad life is full of adventures. And why does something ending have to be seen as bad thing?
Every time I ended a job, I went on to something different. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was baaaadddd! But every time I got to meet new people, learn new things. But most of all I developed as a person. My spirit grew and I learned something new about myself. Because that’s what life is about. And even though we are conditioned to think there is that one big happily ever after thing that will make us happy, there isn’t. Life is about Yin and Yang, good times and bad, things beginning and things ending. Guess what? One day, your poor little body will give out and this life will end. AND THAT’S OK! Because the wonderful spirit that is YOU will float out and find something better to do. Because what people fail to realise, in this illusion that we call happily ever after, is that things end all the time.
Are you still at school? No. Are you still at your first job? (God I hope not). Are you still with your first love? (Maybe) Are you still the same person you was when you were 14? No! Because life is about change. In the industrial revolution when cottage industries died off and factories were born, the factory owners didn’t want their employees (who were taught in their schools) running off to the big cities to pursue a wonderful and interesting and varied career. They wanted employees that would be grateful just to have a job, that would take any shitty shift and pay and instead of complaining say, ‘Please Sir, can I have some more?’ and still be ‘loyal’ to the company 30 years later. Because the world was a crappier place back then. There wasn’t any social security, we were reliant on crops. If things failed, your life would come crashing down round your ears. People needed dependability. And that’s great. To some extent. It’s ok for things to stay the same. IF THAT’S WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. But if you find yourself no longer happy in your career, or your home or with your car, its ok to seek something new. Happily Ever After for me, means the constant pursuit of happiness. And yes of course there are bad times. But without them, how would we learn what we don’t like? How would we know what happiness was if it wasn’t for sadness? (Yin and Yang) So when the happiness starts to fade. When your car begins to knock, or your job no longer fulfils you, don’t be afraid to move onto something different. Yes its scary as hell. But someone out there might be desperate for such a position. You might be standing in the way of someone else’s happiness. And if you’re brave enough to look at change as an adventure, rather than something to fear, life will be filled with the constant pursuit of happiness. Look at kids. They have so much fun, exploring the world around them. Of trying new things of having to always LEARN new things. You were that child once. Were did that sense of adventure go? Think of it like a big glass of your favourite drink. When the happiness runs out you wouldn’t stand at the bar all sad because your glass is all empty until you died miserably of thirst. You would go and fill it back up again. So keep perusing your happiness my friend. Keep your glass full. Always.