I’ve read that when it comes to compensation, benefits, work environment, and time off, college professors have the best job in the United States. And since I spend so much of my workday around them, I can’t argue with that assertion. The ones at the college where I work seem happy, are productive members of their community, and have enough extra time on their hands to string together words no one understands to publish books no one reads.
Still, I was curious. Did these people know they had the fortune and blessing to have the nation’s best job? That all of their hard work had paid off to get them the lifestyle of a lifetime? I wasn’t sure. And to me, it felt like something they should know if they didn’t. So I took a few days and asked around.
Two math, one music, three English, a history, and four philosophy professors later, and I was convinced of two things. One was that they knew exactly how blessed they were to have their particular occupation. The other was that it didn’t matter.
Because while all eleven enjoyed their work and got plenty out of it, in their heart of hearts they would still rather be doing something else.
One math professor expressed a lifelong desire for crab fishing, and the other just wanted to run off to Bora Bora. The history professor admitted that she’d always wanted to open a florist shop. Two of the philosophy professors wanted to be farmers, and the other two missionaries. All three English professors wanted to be famous authors rather than ignored ones. And the music professor? “I’ve always wanted to be a bounty hunter,” all one hundred and twenty pounds of him said. (And it’s okay to laugh at that. Because I did).
Those little confessions didn’t surprise me.
Despite what we say about being happy with where and who we are, deep down we’re never where we should be. No matter how hard we chase after our bliss, it always remains just a few steps ahead. Close enough to see, almost close enough to touch, but not quite. There to both inspire us to keep going and taunt us because we haven’t gone far enough.
Psychologists say this difficulty in finding what makes us happy is inborn. As much a part of us as the desire to love and be loved. I want to disagree with that and say that faith can bring us both happiness and a sense of place in this world, but the truth? I have faith, have a sense of happiness and place, but there are still many times when I look at my happy life and think there’s more out there. More happiness. More better.
Whether this makes me any less of a Christian is something I haven’t figured out yet.
There’s a lot to be said for being content with what you have, a sentiment echoed by people from the Apostle Paul (“I’ve learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am”) to Thoreau (“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone”) to a country song I heard on my way into work this morning (“…I look around at what everyone has, and I forget about all I’ve got…”).
Wise words, all. And true. Yet here I sit, still wanting more anyway. More dreams, more happiness, more peace.
I suppose we’re all stricken with wanderlust. Deep down we’re all explorers who cannot rest until we reach the next horizon, if only to see what’s there and what’s beyond. The ocean we’re all adrift upon is vast, it’s waters deep, and it’s wonders breathtaking. And though we sail onward, ever searching, our spirits whisper this truth:
We are meant to sail upon the waters of another ocean, where the seas are calm and the winds are fair. And that our happiness now is but a shadow of the happiness that awaits.