Editor's note: Jill Adams is a professional writer based in Fort Wayne.
My father was my hero. He was smart and charismatic, with a sharp sense of humor and a heart of gold. Everyone loved him. To me, he was the perfect role model.
He often gave me life wisdom in little nuggets. At the time, I didn't always appreciate or even recognize the value of his insight. But before he passed away, he said one thing I'll never forget: “Be happy.”
I've thought of that phrase in every stage of my life, always striving to live it out. It hasn't always been easy; as a mother, I have found there were times when personal sacrifice was necessary for my kids' sake. I haven't always been “happy,” but my kids were. In the end, that's what matters most.
My husband shares that philosophy. A hard worker, he has always put his personal aspirations on the back burner to ensure our family had what we needed. Case in point: Three years ago, he left a job he enjoyed to take a job with a more “definitive” career path.
“Is this what you want to do?” I asked him.
“Not necessarily,” he responded. “But I think it's a good opportunity, and I should take it.”
So that's what he did. He worked diligently, followed protocol and moved up the ladder. The boss gave him accolades and his clients gave their appreciation. He became the model employee. It was a good, stable job with prospects for growth.
On paper, it was ideal.
On my husband, however, it was not.
He never complained, but as time passed, I knew something was wrong. So, one night after the kids fell asleep, I decided to ask the question.
“Do you like what you do?”
He looked up at me in surprise.
“It's fine,” he responded.
“I don't believe you,” I told him.
He leaned his head back and looked upward in contemplation. I sat silently, and gave him the time I knew he needed. Finally, he looked back at me.
“No,” he said. “I don't like what I do. I'm not happy there.”
I nodded in an effort to be encouraging. I knew the affirmation had been tough for him to say out loud. But internally, my stomach was churning. His job was stable, had a good benefits package and could lead to lucrative promotions. Leaving it could be a risky move for our family.
We sat quietly for a few minutes, neither of us knowing what to say next. As we did, my father flashed in my mind.
“Be happy,” he had said.
I looked at my husband again. He had made huge sacrifices for us, and now it was time for him to pursue a career that would bring him what he deserved – happiness.
“Then let's move on,” I told him. “Find something you love, and then find a way to do it.”
“You sure?” he asked.
“Yep,” I responded. And to my surprise, I meant it.
Four weeks later, my husband found a job he loves. Every night, he comes home excited and motivated, recounting the stories of his day with a grin. In the morning, he jumps out of bed, ready to start his day. The transition was a little scary, but the chance was worth taking. My husband's happiness is contagious, and we're all better for it.
As my father once said, life is too short not to enjoy it. Today, I know my dad would be proud of both of us.