One who stands still and digs just one foot down will find more than those who wander the earth searching for answers above the ground
On Monday I was walking with a 59-year-old woman named Lisa along 1st avenue towards Bellevue Hospital. I chair a meeting there on the 20th floor – it is called a “dual” level: A lockdown psychiatric ward/detox facility. I have been there both as a patient and as a speaker. It is an unpleasant place full of unpleasant memories. And each Monday that I go back to this unpleasant place, each time I spend here or at Beth Israel Detox, another place where I have dual citizenship, I am happy. I am thrilled to be back at these places – to see these people who sometimes don’t want me there and who most likely won’t remember me. But there I sit with a grin on my face, looking around at the exhausted employees and the newspapers scattered on the floor. But the act of being there, talking with the patients, any of it, all of it – it is not the reason I am happy. I walk into these floors happy and I walk out all the same – the impact that I make, if any, has nothing to do with my story. I am happy there because I am happy. Happiness is not a place, it has no status or level. It is not a destination – it is wherever you find yourself diving into the thick of life. It is by pursuing my passion and forgetting the rest that I am able to find peace. Whatever passion we find, whatever road it takes us on, doesn’t matter. My purpose in life is to be happy; I am not happy because I am making an impact – I am making an impact because I am happy.
As Lisa and I neared 20th street we paused before an intersection. She had just finished telling me how she had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Her voice was tiny but everything behind it was a hurricane. She said that she has always loved doing things like this – she was going to be speaking tonight, telling her story of addiction and mental illness to the patients at Bellevue. She started young; At 17 she went off to West Africa as a volunteer with the missionaries. Lisa turned to me and spoke through a crooked smile; “You know, I was so damn miserable that I probably did more harm than good over there.” I laughed a bit and began to brush off her comment as a joke but she insisted on explaining – “In order to make any sort of impact on the world you have to find the thing you are passionate about and you have to do it, without hesitation. There is no effort, no cause, no status ever great enough which can create happiness within you. You can do all the volunteer work you wish but don’t expect it to make you happy. You can go out and make a million bucks but if you think it will change anything you’re wrong. We live with a delusion, people like you and I, that if we somehow change the surface of things, rearrange the furniture and shuffle around the cards we will trick ourselves into being happy. No one and nothing can make you happy – no one and nothing can take away your happiness. Find something you love to do and do it to the best of your abilities – it is the best gift you will ever give to this world.”