The first two decades of this millennium might be remembered as The Era of Happiness.
Apparently, we all want the stuff, and some bugger’s walking around somewhere who knows perfectly well how to get it, but is keeping schtum.
Meanwhile, all manner of gushing hobbits are banging their swedes on the revolving doors of TED’s headquarters claiming, definitively, it’s in the issues they happen to have struggled with their whole lives: self-esteem; a rubbish job; gratitude for how mind-bogglingly irritating they find their toddler: this is the key it all boils down to, you sweet-but-very STUPID IDIOTS.
Unpopular, but there’s a school of thought that if you haven’t found your life purpose by the age of 40, you should basically stop looking.
In your twenties you didn’t give a hoot about fulfilment.
You were in the wrong job, battling the legacy of faulty childhood wirings, dating aliens, and drunk 90% of the time.
If anyone asked you what you felt passionate about and what you got out of bed for, the answer would have been martinis and espressos, preferably dancing with each other in a glass.
In your 30s you realised the answer to life, the universe, and everything was to have a house with a picket fence and a herd of funny, same-surnamed muppets.
You trudged on through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, gathering firewood and doing your bit to help bakeries maintain their turnover.
Then, DUMP!, forty lands, and suddenly there’s you and your soul and your mother on the phone with a new dead friend every 15 minutes.
Aren’t I immortal?, you query. What the hell’s been the point of me? Why aren’t I smiling like a monk?
Sad to say, there was a window in there with a nettle sticking through it that you could have grasped. It might have been the 24 hours before your 38th birthday- hard to tell- when things could have clicked into place, and you would have felt alive and smooth in the breathing area.
But you missed it: shame- now what?
You pump desperately at what you’re good at, as on a resusci anne.
You put out a call to the universe, asking it to provide.
And if you can fit these tasks in-between trips to the osteopath and being put on hold, that’s a definite win.
Alternatively, you could do what any person in a fix would do, and panic tactically.
Protracted probing into your hidden desires for breakthroughs eats into lotto win fantasies and the downloading of social survival strategies onto your offspring.
Unless you’ve got a hot lead, it can feel like chasing a fairy.
So, invert the received wisdom.
Take a top-line inventory of yourself from a stranger’s p.o.v and ask, ‘Who, knowing absolutely nothing about me, would find me impressive? Who doesn’t know my average score at University Challenge? Who, relatively speaking, is going to think I’m a sharp-toothed, rip-roaring genius?’
It’s not a snidey thing: you’re not looking for losers. Just for one paltry skill gap, otherwise known as a ‘gold-plate opportunitette’.
It doesn’t have to be the sole reason you were put on this earth. You don’t even need to be better than anyone else at doing it.
You just need to find a person who is more clueless at that particular thing than you, and stick your face in theirs.
Seeing as you’re in your own personal witness protection programme, your U.C score may remain a mystery.
As for the longed-for contentment, that comes from not being exposed and, perhaps, being a bit appreciated.
Does Stephen Hawking want dinner on Saturday night with an eminent physicist, or with Professor Cox, his moon made of cheese, and heart-shaped pupils for eyes?
Alignment with one’s gifts is overwhelmingly special.
But if you get stuck, remember the other type, too- the one that comes from how you position yourself.
The oldest kid in the class feels like the king.