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Chasing the Wind: In Search of the Wrong Pursuits

Chasing the Wind: In Search of the Wrong Pursuits

As a child, my best friend and I spent a warm, summer afternoon chasing the wind. One particularly gusty day we snuck into our rooms, grabbed the top sheets from our beds, and raced towards my parent’s backyard.

We stood atop the grassy hill just behind my house and waited for the wind to blow. “Wait for it!” I shouted. “Almost!” I yelled. “Now!” I screamed as the gusts picked up. We tightened our grips, dashed downhill, and watched as the sheets billowed with air.

“Let’s catch the wind,” my best friend suggested after we stopped running. We climbed the big hill, stepped inside, and grabbed two glass jelly jars with lids.

It makes me smile to think of this memory and the wild and ridiculous ideas of excited, six-year-olds. In our childhood minds, this was serious business. Little did we know that we couldn’t capture the wind.

Chasing the Wind

It’s easy to spend a lifetime chasing after things that you can’t catch. I’ve spent much of my life chasing after happiness. I convinced myself, time and again, that happiness was waiting for me. It was sitting right there, just out of reach, beyond my next goal.

Have you ever met someone who plans their next vacation the minute after they arrive home from their last one? A person who envisions their next promotion the moment after their boss announces this one?

That’s how I lived my life for a very long time. Rather than relishing in the moments I immediately began to plan for my next objective. I didn’t take the time to congratulate myself. I felt satisfied for a brief moment and then I moved on.

When I think back to that day on the grassy hill I wonder why my best friend and I felt the need to grab those two jelly jars. Why didn’t we just chase the wind? Why did we feel the need to capture it

Chasing After Career Success

It’s easy to chase the wind. To feel the soft breeze brush over your skin and feel the excitement in rushing to chase it.

At work, I chased the wind for over a decade. In the beginning, I worked hard to become a competent software engineer. I spent time learning new technologies, solving complex problems, and striving for mastery.

But eventually, I became bored and deeply frustrated by upper management. At some point, the goal of gaining new skills and knowledge fell by the wayside.

Over time my objectives changed. I yearned for bigger promotions and more money. Perhaps it was consolation for my misery.

Those promotions didn’t bring me happiness or satisfaction. Every time I reached the next level I immediately yearned for more.

Then one day I was laid off and my visions of work changed dramatically. My job was my identity. It defined who I was and what I was worth. Without a job I felt like a huge piece of me was missing.

Time has provided me with a new perspective. Looking back I realize my goals were misguided. The energy and excitement of learning in those first few years gave way to a focus on promotions and salary.

I poured countless hours into my work. Often sitting at my computer from the minute I woke up until long after I should have been in bed. In reality, my career didn’t matter nearly as much as I once thought it did.

These days I can barely remember the names of the applications I wrote or the names of most of my coworkers. When I left my desk someone else took my seat. The company replaced me and moved on without me. I also moved on without them.

Chasing Financial Success

The quest for financial independence can feel like chasing the wind. We can become so obsessed with filling our bank accounts that we lose sight of more important goals.

Money seems like a solution to so many problems. We think, “when I reach $500,000 I will be happy.” Then we hit that number and move our target forward. We aim for $1,000,000 and more.

In the quest to reach those high financial figures we sacrifice our time and energy. We fail to look at work as a place to gain knowledge. We don’t think about teamwork or intelligent solutions.

Instead, we narrow our focus on monetary gains. All while competing with others who are doing the same thing.

When We Stop Chasing the Wind

Losing my job felt like the worst thing that could happen to me, but in fact, it has been one of the very best things. If I had continued working I would have wasted my life chasing the wind.

I would have continued to search for happiness and satisfaction in a place where it could never exist.

Where does my happiness exist? In the little things like watching my children learn and grow. In taking walks with my husband or chatting about the world with family and friends.

Happiness exists in relishing my accomplishments rather than immediately reaching for new ones. That’s a sentiment I never believed before now and would have laughed at a decade ago.

True Riches

My bank account does not indicate my riches. They aren’t visible on my financial ledger either. With money in the bank, I could buy almost anything I want, but I find myself wanting fewer things than ever. I relish a life with less. I no longer need to convince myself to stop buying stuff.

So many of us search for ‘things’ to fill our souls. We work hard, shop, and buy only to find our new purchases don’t make us happy. We chase the wind searching for happiness where happiness cannot be found.

This is not to say that we should quit working, throw in the towel and give up on producing anything meaningful in our lives.

We can strive for riches in the form of learning, growing, and performing solid work. We can love our jobs, the people we work with, and the missions we perform.

What Are You Chasing

Do you relish in your success or do you find yourself chasing after the next big thing? What are you chasing? Have you ever thought about it? Have you ever wondered if it was even worth pursuing?

When we chase the wind we hurt ourselves and those we love. My obsession with work took me away from my other passions and interests. It kept me locked in my office rather than exercising, cooking dinner, or spending time with my husband.

Think carefully about whatever it is you are chasing? In my twenties and thirties, I chased after career success. In high school, I chased after love.

Chasing Love

During my junior year of high school, I desperately wanted a boyfriend. As a shy sixteen-year-old, I dreamed of finding the perfect partner. I grew tired of standing on the sidelines watching everyone else fall in love.

The trouble was I was six feet tall. When I was sixteen a little old lady once stopped me in the elevator. “You’re beautiful,” she said, “Too bad you’ll never find a husband. You are just too tall.” It wasn’t the first time I’d heard those words or something similar. Unfortunately, the more I heard them the more I began to believe them.

“How in the world would I ever find a boyfriend?” I thought. Giants didn’t roam my school halls. I felt discouraged, misguided, and heartbroken.
I had given up all hope of finding a boyfriend when J passed me on my way to class. The new kid in school happened to be a little bit taller than me.

The problem is, my best friend had fallen head over heels for him. “Take him this note,” she told me one afternoon, “and find out if he’ll go out with me.”

In the hallway between science and math class, I ran into J and handed him the note. His answer, “No thanks, but I’d love to go out with you.”

All’s Fair in Love and War

“What should I do?” I asked my mom. “All’s fair in love and war,” she responded. So the next day I agreed to go play miniature golf with J. A day after that my best friend stopped talking to me. Was my quest for a boyfriend worth losing my friendship?

I felt guilty about hanging out with J. After one date my guilt got the best of me. We stopped seeing each other, but my best friend never talked to me again. My friendship meant more to me than a boyfriend ever could.

Yet I left my friend behind to chase the wind. I was willing to end my friendship over the silly goal of landing a boyfriend.

In The End

At the end of the day, we all know that life is fragile. Our time is limited and we must make the most of the years we’ve been given.

When we reach the end of our journey what will matter? What will I want my husband to think about as he holds my hand for the very last time? What will I want my children to remember about me?

My wealth can not be found in the dollars I have accrued. My relationships with my parents, spouse, children, and friends are worth much more than money.

If I could travel back in time what would I change? I wouldn’t have agreed to that date with J. I wouldn’t have spent so much time focused on the financial aspects of my career either.

No Longer Chasing the Wind

These days I no longer feel the need to chase the wind. I simply allow myself to feel it brush over me. Contentment doesn’t lie just around the corner. It’s sitting right here in front of me.

Impersonal Finances

Saturday 17th of October 2020

Reminds me of the Donovan song, Catch the Wind. Good tune. Here's a lyric:

For standin' in your heart Is where I want to be And long to be, Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind.

We're all chasing something. In the personal finance community, money is the obvious answer, but it usually goes way beyond that. There's a reason that we want money and the freedom it buys us. Catch that reason and enjoy the breeze!

One Frugal Girl

Saturday 17th of October 2020

I completely agree! I didn't realize the freedom money could buy early on. Now I do!

She's FIRE'd

Monday 13th of July 2020

I've never been accused of being tall, and so of course I wished I were. I didn't get curly or red hair either. What a rude old woman to say such an awful thing to you!

I just finished two books on happiness (both by Sonja Lyubomirsky and both very good,) that agreed with your post. People strive towards what society tells them will make them happier, but most of those things don't make them happier at all. Some even make them less happy. I was very amused to learn that people are TERRIBLE at predicting what will make them happy. Sounds like you're on the right track now though. I suspect some people never figure it out.

Another interesting and thought provoking post. You are on a roll!

One Frugal Girl

Monday 13th of July 2020

I am tall with thick curly hair and married to a red head if that matters ;) I'd definitely like to check out the two happiness books you recommended. I think contentment has definitely come with age for me. The older I become the more I'm able to block out the noise of others, (including the old bitty), I met in the elevator. I also see that happiness is somewhat fleeting whereas contentment can be a constant state of mind. I am still a great work in progress, but every year I get a little bit better ;)

steveark

Friday 10th of July 2020

Doesn't have to be either or. I loved being a parent and a spouse but I also loved my job and the sense of accomplishment it gave me. And I also loved making a lot of money so I could easily retire slightly early and never worry about money again. I have no regrets about my career, it was a lot of fun. And retirement? It's even better!

One Frugal Girl

Monday 13th of July 2020

Thanks for your comment. Actually it was your comment on a previous post that led me to write this one! I totally agree that you can balance work and family. Unfortunately, I didn't balance work in a healthy way and when it wasn't fun I allowed myself to pursue money instead. Looking back I think I could have found a more fulfilling job that also paid well, but I had other factors to account for, like my ability to work from home due to health issues and other things. I wish I would have explored other opportunities more often. Perhaps I would have realized the grass was plenty green on my side or I would have found something even better. Thank you for leaving comments that help me see the world from different angles.