When is the Last Time You Felt Joy?

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Lately I've been doing a lot of reading as part of my journey toward a new home and new career chronicled over at my other blog. Since it seems there is never enough time, and since I read about as fast as I drive (a 2 1/2 hour trip takes me 4 hours, Lord help us when I drive cross country this September...I should be there by Christmas, but I digress.) I have taken to optimizing my exposure to books by doing the following: I listen to one book in the car, I listen to another book on my ipod when I go walking, I have a third book on my nightstand, and a fourth book that goes with me to the beach on Sunday afternoons. Don't ask me which books I assign to which position because there is a method to it, but it reflects poorly on the depth of my eccentricities.

Last week, listening to a financial planning book by David Bach in the car (hint). I was in one of the final chapters, where he describes a profound question he asked himself one day that catalyzed him to change his life:

"When is the last time you felt joy?"

Luckily, I was just pulling into the parking lot of work at that moment so that I avoided causing a multiple car pile-up as I tried to come up with my own last joyful moment.

I want to qualify this question. By 'joy' I don't mean the fleeting momentary happiness we feel when we get a great parking spot at the mall on Saturday, or someone at the office surprises us with bagels on Friday. I mean the deep seated heartfelt joy of knowing that you are on the right track, living your life's purpose at the core of your being and radiating outward to touch everything else you do. The kind of joy that vibrates through your soul so that even on a bad day when the cat pees on your pillow and you don't find out until you lay your head down to sleep, or you get a rejection letter from that job you'd applied to , or you fail a test at school, sets you back on your heels for a moment or a day but doesn't disuade you from knowing at a gut level that you are on your true path and that you can't wait for tomorrow to start again.

When's the last time you felt that kind of joy?

For me, it was the summer after my junior year in high school. I was in love for the first time in my life with a wonderful boy, but even more than that, my years of swimming were finally coming to fruition in what I knew would be a record breaking summer. In fact, my whole swimming career, all eight years of it, was like that, a certainty of knowing I was doing something I loved, I was on the right track even though as it would turn out, I was a late bloomer and would not know 'real' success until I'd been swimming for six years, there was never a doubt in my mind that I was where I needed to be and that every day, even the dreaded five a.m. workouts were part of my joy.

Now, I don't want to lead you to the pity-filled assumption that I haven't felt joy since then, it's just that that is the most complete and profound and clear and long-lasting experience of joy I've ever had. In second place, I would place my eight years on Wall Street, which was the realization of another dream I had as a child.

Good stuff. Two's not bad, right? Not bad, but not enough.

What would bring you joy now?

In the years since I left Wall Street I have experienced fleeting moments of joy, most of them externally derived, things like a month of island hopping off the coast of Croatia, or more meaningful and lasting, like teaching a class of international students the joy of reading A Tale of Two Cities together, aloud, one page at a time.

When I lived for a year at Lake Tahoe, during The Interim after leaving Wall Street, I began writing novels. This felt like my joy, it still does, although it has thus far yielded more disappointment than euphoria. I'm hesitant to call writing my joy because in this case 'joy' is what I am realizing is just a synonym for 'purpose'. In this regard, two people who I admire the most in my life are my mother and my brother, both have found their joy/purpose in their respective careers. And it is this certainty that has sustained them through dark days and in the case of my mother, made the twilight years a time of peace and looking forward rather than backward.

If writing is my joy, but I am not successful at it, it begs the question, must we be successful for a thing to be called our joy? Or maybe I have not yet found my joy, perhaps that's what this current journey is about as much as finding home or finding a career. In my heart, I long for that surety, that sense of purpose, that joy that I felt before. At some point, I want to have that 'aha' moment when I say, 'this is why I'm meant to be, this is my purpose in life, this is my joy'.

Mr. W, a partner at our firm and someone I've known as a family friend since childhood is one of the most joyful people I know. He loves his career in commercial real estate and I believe that has contributed to his terrific success. He also takes great joy in his family, his friends, even in the place that he lives. I believe that one common denominator among people who have found success in their careers is that they have found work that brings them joy, in fact, for these people it doesn't feel like work it feels like a vocation. So, that's what I'm looking for, a career that feels like joy, something that I'm good at and that I can make a contribution to through my efforts, something that feels like me.

What is your joy?

Are you in the midst of it? Searching for it? What are you doing to find it, or if found, what are you doing to cultivate it?
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Keetha said…
Great question! I am going to think some on this and come back or email but in the meantime, have I told you about The Happiness Project? You really may want to check it out:


I've really enjoyed following it. Very thought provoking.
Vodka Mom said…
my moment of pure, pure joy (when I really knew what it was ) was when i laid eyes on my baby girl.

for real.
Vodka Mom said…
my moment of pure, pure joy (when I really knew what it was ) was when i laid eyes on my baby girl.

for real.
Keetha said…
I've thought more about this and the simplest way for me to experience real joy is - forgive me for getting all out there, man - but to be in the now, to live in the now and enjoy it. It's something I've made a concerted effort to do for the last year or so and wow does it make a difference. When I stopped waiting for this to happen or for that to happen and just living my life and trying to make the life I've always wanted, it made a huge difference.
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