Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Earn Joy

I do a lot of reading on the subway. Admittedly, over half of it is over other people's shoulders.

I know I'm not alone in this, so I feel no guilt in admitting this publicly. I read my fair share of newspapers, magazines, gossip articles, and whatnot. (In fact, last week, a man saw me reading a newspaper over someone else's shoulder, and he, having already finished his, offered it to me. I wasn't sure whether to take it or not. I opted not and then focused on listening to my music rather than reading about Tiger Woods. But I digress.)

My favorite things to read, though, are the things I shouldn't be reading. I watch others around me, and I know I'm not the only one who looks over someone's shoulder while he's drawing or writing, trying to sneak a peak at a poem or journal entry. (I even expect others to be reading over my shoulder, especially when I'm writing on the train. I accept it and am okay with it, knowing full well that I'll never see these people again. Maybe, also, I'm secretly hoping for this to happen to me...)

But this weekend, I was on the train and saw a girl pull a journal out of her bag -- filled with pictures, writings in English and what appeared to be Korean from far way, drawings, and doodles -- and flip through it with her sister sitting next to her.

One of the things that caught my eye was a list. It was "things I want for myself." They were all things about self-betterment, but the one that stuck out at me was number 4 on the list: "Earn Joy."

At that moment, I stuck my hand in my pocket, wrapped my fingers around the 2-inch stuffed dog that happened to be there, and thought about what it means to earn joy -- or if that is, in fact, the way we obtain joy.

My initial reaction was, "Well, that's silly. Joy isn't something you earn; it's something you..." And then I realized, I didn't know how to finish that sentence.

Is joy something you work for? Is it something that comes from the conscious mind? The subconscious? Outside sources? (From a stuffed animal who occasionally lives inside your pocket?) From friends? From just waking up on the right side of the bed in a sun-soaked room?

I'm not sure what it means to earn joy, but I know what it means to work for it. And I know that sometimes, all the work you put in is to no avail.

And maybe that's what earning joy is all about -- working for it and falling short. You can't earn without work, and if it isn't hard, it isn't worth working for.

So I'm not sure if you do earn joy, but just in case, I'm going to go back to working for it. At the very least, I'll get some good experience along the way. And some ice cream. And in the end, even if joy isn't earnable, ice cream certainly is.

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