The mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion

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“Whether queer or not, many peo­ple do this trad­ing of hap­pi­ness for safety, se­cu­rity and com­fort. We don’t want the tem­po­rary dis­com­fort that comes with change, so we sit in our con­tent­ed­ness and pla­cate our­selves with day­dreams about the life we don’t have the courage to ac­tu­ally live.”

“Aunt Mama, are you happy?” Those were the words com­ing from the mouth of my then 2-year-old niece, Macken­zie. I re­mem­ber it well be­cause we were driv­ing nine hours to visit a fam­ily mem­ber and Macken­zie talked ev­ery sin­gle minute of those nine hours. I have no idea what else she said that day over 14 years ago be­cause that ques­tion was the most pro­found thing any­one has ever asked me and it was all I could think about.

I was mar­ried to a good man. I was a stayat-home home­school mom to two of the most amaz­ing chil­dren. I lived on the beach. I had a boat. Dol­phins played in the wa­ter off my back deck. I trav­eled. I had friends. I was a fos­ter mom and a hos­pice vol­un­teer. I had the grat­i­tude and re­spect of my com­mu­nity.

I felt con­tent most of the time, sad some of the time and lonely all of the time. But, no mat­ter how I tried to ar­gue the case for my hap­pi­ness in my mind, I just couldn’t cat­e­go­rize my­self as “happy.”

That ques­tion forced me to ex­am­ine my life. I looked at what I was trad­ing my real hap­pi­ness for: the feel­ing of safety and se­cu­rity, avoid­ing the dis­com­fort of a di­vorce, a move, lack of fi­nan­cial re­sources, the re­ac­tion of friends and the “em­bar­rass­ment” of know­ing that all of the peo­ple who knew me would now know that I was a les­bian – just some of the many rea­sons that I gave my­self to keep me an­chored to that life of medi­ocre sat­is­fac­tion.

I went for al­most four more years be­fore I gath­ered the re­solve to fol­low my heart into the un­known world out­side of my closet.

One of the most in­ter­est­ing things for me is to see that, whether queer or not, many peo­ple do this trad­ing of hap­pi­ness for safety, se­cu­rity and com­fort. We don’t want the tem­po­rary dis­com­fort that comes with change, so we sit in our con­tent­ed­ness and pla­cate our­selves with day­dreams about the life we don’t have the courage to ac­tu­ally live.

This isn’t a story about fol­low­ing my bliss and how my life went from drab to fab. In fact, my life is pretty sim­i­lar now to how it was back when I wasn’t happy. The dif­fer­ence has re­ally only been about rec­og­niz­ing that I wasn’t happy and sum­mon­ing the courage to walk away from se­cu­rity with­out know­ing what, if any­thing, would re­place it. Have you been there? Are you there now? Be­cause what if, af­ter that bit of dis­com­fort, your life be­came amaz­ing? What if you bit the bul­let and went through the fi­nan­cial hit and the drama of get­ting out of that bad re­la­tion­ship and then met the most in­cred­i­ble per­son who thinks that you are the most in­cred­i­ble per­son? What if you left that job that sucks your soul and gave up that se­cu­rity so that you could chase your pas­sion and you ended up wildly suc­cess­ful? What if you spoke your truth to the peo­ple that you love and it brought you closer to­gether?

What if you made a de­ci­sion right now to ex­am­ine your life and ask your­self the very sim­ple ques­tion of a 2-year-old: “Are you happy?”

Shan­non Hames is a mom, writer, re­al­tor, vol­un­teer, rocker chick, world trav­eler and ’80s hair band afi­cionado. She loves ba­bies, ob­serv­ing peo­ple, read­ing great books and tak­ing hot baths. She has been writ­ing for Ge­or­gia Voice since 2010.

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