The Search for Happiness: You never have to know what to do with your life

The Search for Happiness: You never have to know what to do with your life

When I was a little girl, I was constantly drawing. Ponies and pretty birds and doggies and cats. As I grew older, my art evolved into what can only be described as my boomerang-mood-teenager-period (imagine Picasso's Blue Period... just um... with more Linkin Park logos, sullen-faced girls wearing shorty-shorts and various grungy skulls crawling with bugs. Oh, and much less blue). Looking back, what surprises me is that I never even once dreamt of becoming an artist. Not even when I was lost in childish imagination, removed from The Grown-up World that demands realistic career choices that offer the promise of a job that will pay the bills. I wanted to be a mermaid. But never an artist...

I ended up choosing to study Graphic Design. Let me rephrase that – I ended up forcing myself to choose SOMETHING, which happened to be Graphic Design. I didn't really think about life after my studies. I didn't really think about life after next Wednesday, for Pete's sake! I was 18, and I knew nothing about life or the world or myself. All I knew was that all around me, everyone seemed to know what they were doing, so it would probably be wise for me to put on my big-girl panties and make some decisions.

My heart was never in it. I felt restless and frustrated, but I was adamant to make a success of the choice that I made. So I soldiered on, graduated (by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin), and almost immediately got my first job. It paid pretty well and I liked the people I worked with and I learned a lot. Mostly, I learned that it just wasn't where I wanted to be. It was like being in a restaurant, and instead of serving you tea like you ordered, the waiter brings you coffee. And because you don't want to be a jerk, you just quietly sip your coffee, even though it's not what you wanted (at least that's what I, the Welcome Mat, would do). I sipped and sipped. And I dreamt of greener pastures that were completely unclear and unreal and I thought them to be unreachable. Unreachable, because I had chosen THIS path. I had made a decision, and worked-cried-screamed-stressed-slaved-cried through four years of university, and I had gone to an interview and gotten this job and now I worked-cried-screamed-stressed-slaved-cried through my day-to-day existence. After going through all of that, surely you can't just... change your mind, right?

I don't know how and exactly when I changed my mind... Perhaps it was when my darling, understanding, supportive mom sent me a newspaper clipping advertising jobs for photographers on cruise ships. It could have been when I sat crying in my rental car just after walking out of my interview, totally overwhelmed by what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here-and-where-am-I-going. Maybe it was around the time I handed in my resignation and gave notice to my landlord. Then again, I think I managed all of the above while groping around in a thick mist of uncertainty... The mind-shift most probably took place the first time I set foot in my teeny-tiny ship cabin, way beneath the water level, on my giant new floating office building/residence. Long story short, I had forgotten some really important paperwork (that, to this day, I remember packing!!!) without which I would not have been able to stay onboard, and I was basically waiting for security to come chuck me off the ship... I would later find out that email saved the day, but at the time it was the coming-alive of the ship that made me realised that I was safe. The close-call had done its damage - I had never felt more alone in my life. I lay back on my top bunk (tucking my chin to my chest to avoid knocking myself silly against the impossibly low ceiling), about to cry. What was I thinking when I quit my perfectly average life?! And then a sign: Two large, black, hand-scribbled words spoke to me form the ceiling right above my head. KNOW THYSELF. A previous tenant – a kind, wise angel - gifted me with this moment of perfect clarity. THAT'S what I was doing here and THAT'S where I was going.


Wildlife artist Corinne Erasmus at the Acropolis of Athens

Visiting the Acropolis of Athens during one of my contracts aboard a cruise ship.

Even longer story made short, I worked the waters for a few years, bumped into the best-thing-that-has-ever-happened-to-me, decided to marry him, and we moved back to my home country together where we lead a strange, nomad existence made up of a collection of part-time jobs and a variety of entrepreneurial juggling (sometimes metaphorically, sometimes less so), none of which have much to do with Graphic Design. And amongst all the juggling, I figured out that I want to be an artist.


Wildlife artist Corinne Erasmus painting wild dogs watercolor

Thinking, "I should be doing more of this" while painting a gift for our Best Man just before we got married. 

Right now, that's what I want to be. Will I still want to be an artist tomorrow or next month or in ten years? No idea. I don't have all the answers and I am completely unsure about where I am going and what I am going to do with my life. Am I happy? Yes – never been happier. Isn't THAT what's most important? Isn't purpose without happiness kind of empty? If your choices lead you to be a *add your job title here*, and you're not happy being a *add your job title here*, shouldn't you be allowed to change your mind and make some changes? Never mind what opinion your parents/spouse/kids/friends/society might have - shouldn't you allow yourself the opportunity to try and find your happiness? Float, dream, cry, grow, travel, stay, discover, invent, fight fight fight towards happiness! And if you never know what you want to do with your life... So what? As long as you know what Happy tastes like.


getting married at Mokala National Park Kimberley South Africa

Getting married at Mokala National Park. Photo credit: Christine Joy Photography
Realistic wildlife watercolor portrait of pack of wild dogs in South Africa


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1 comment

I wish you all the happiness in the world and massive success with your artist job!


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