Are You Happy?

I remember driving my mom somewhere years ago after having been practicing Pediatrics for a year or two, when out of the blue she asked me: “Are you happy?” That was so unlike my mom; she more often had an opinion more so than a question. And it really gave me pause: was I happy? I’d had my nose to the grindstone with 4 years of college, 4 years medical school, 3 years residency, and finally 2 years of fellowship training before I was finally plopped out into the real world at 33 years of age. There had been scant little time for reflection or soul-searching; mostly just keep moving forward on the path laid out for me.

I think the same phenomenon is going on for most girls and young women today; nose to the grindstone on a prescribed path. I just finished my last week of summer camp, and was able to listen to the stories of many teenage girls, and they are feeling a lot of stress and pressure these days. Their lives feel too much like hamsters on a wheel, flying from one activity to the next with little down time. School boils down to giving the teacher what she wants and padding your resume, sucking the life and love out of learning. They are pushing forward towards top-tier universities after which they are supposed to lean into some fabulous career until they have reached the summit of their profession. But very few adolescent girls or young women take time to be alone and quiet, and thus they are woefully inept when it comes to contemplation and soul-searching.

“All of man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.” Blaise Pascalquiet time-1

This quote obviously applies to women too, and maybe even more so because of how competitive, ambitious, and technology addicted girls are today. Girls have bought the cultural mantra hook, line, and sinker: busy and distracted; more and faster is better. So I am beseeching parents to teach their daughters the value of slowing down, spending alone time with electronics turned off, and checking in with themselves: “How am I feeling? What’s going on inside of me? What do I need? What’s the right choice for me?” There are so many benefits to this kind of quiet time, and it’s one of those gifts that keep on giving for a lifetime. Think, reflect, journal, write stories or poetry or songs, draw or paint or sculpt, dance, and discover creative solitude.

I wasn’t happy, I realized, back at that point in my life, and that discovery precipitated a 180-degree life change to doing what I do now. I love what I do, and am forever grateful for my epiphany moments. I am certain it would never have happened without some serious soul-searching and personal growth. Perhaps it’s time for you to slow down for a spell, look inward, and ask your self some questions, and especially:

Are you happy?

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