If you are on top of the world, do you have to come down off the top in order to climb back up again? If you shoot for the stars and hit them, are there no more stars to hit?
Ever since I was little, people have talked about deciding what to do with your life. Back then it was – when I grow up, I want to be this or that. When I actually grew up, I even calculated how much money I needed to be able to “retire”. Then guess what? I actually became what I had always wanted to be and I even saved up enough to be able to decamp from the rat race. This was at age 32.
At the time, I told people that I had achieved self-actualization. Their reaction was to treat me with superciliousness. Reminded how no one knew who I was etc. There was much celebration when a few years later I said that I now had a new goal in life. A friend of mine told me that if I had really self-actualized previously then I would not have a new goal. But I disagreed and Maslow and his hierarchy of needs suffered defenestration.
Why do I have to do just one thing with my life? Why does doing all sorts of different things get looked at as searching for the one thing? Why does it have to be ONE thing?
I have always been able to identify patterns easily. I found that to quickly get a woman to bed, you had to make sure all her other needs or desires were satisfied. But this is not about her needs for all time. It is about her needs at that time. That means that what satisfied today may not satisfy tomorrow. For those still obdurate apropos Maslow’s pyramid, think of it as having to get to the top of the pyramid every time. So today she has no money problems, she is not hungry and is in a good mood. In that case all you have to do is make her feel respected. But tomorrow she suddenly has money problems that may impact her mood, but her boss was nice to her and so she feels really respected. So then you have to satisfy a different need.
Over 10 years ago, I found true happiness being able to come home everyday to this particular woman. Once my class and, later, my shift ended, I felt the excitement fill my heart at the prospect of seeing her face and hearing her voice. So every evening as I closed the back gate and she looked down at me from the bedroom window, I hit a star. Then I married her and we had a child, hitting several stars. This was now a new level of happiness.
In the meanwhile I was being paid well to be a programmer. I had wanted to be a programmer for a long time. I had even threatened to kill myself if my sisters did not let me use my inheritance to pay for my software engineering education. I remember how happy I felt when I paid the tuition. I had no money to my name immediately after that point but I was walking around like I was the richest man in the world. The happiness I felt when I finally found a job at McDonald’s was on another level. Then I came back to Uganda and my code was impacting real lives. The sense of fulfillment that brought was immense.
There is a long line of teachers in my family. My paternal grandparents and my parents were teachers. It is my destiny and desire to work in academia. While I was still being fulfilled as a programmer I got several opportunities to teach. When my name first appeared on a research paper, I cried. I cried because the joy overflowed. Then I was at Oxford University coaching doctoral students of Biomedical Engineering… If only my parents were alive to see that. My daddy used to brag in the bar about the secondary school I was in, am sure he would have taken out a TV advertisement about my stint in Oxford. Just that thought brings tears to my eyes. How many times can a person be on top of the world?
I have been truly blessed in my life. I had a box of cigars from Cuba that I used to turn to every time I was feeling on top of the world. That box had 10 cigars and eventually run out about 3 years ago. But the happiness is still coming.
It is my contention that in my life, I will continue to find happiness in many different ways. That is why shooting for the stars appeals more than Maslow’s pyramid. The universe is never ending. When you hit the stars, there are still more stars to hit in a galaxy far, far away.
So what is my purpose in life? What I can say is, its not just ONE thing. It has been many things. And I know many more are yet to come. Join me and lets count our blessings. Let us stop and smell the coffee. We have many lives to lead.