In Search of Happiness
P. D. Eastman’s “Are You My Mother?” is probably one of the most enduring childhood stories I’ve ever read. If you’ve never read Eastman’s beginner book, it’s essentially the story of a baby bird whose mother goes off in search of food before he emerges. When the chick’s egg finally hatches, he immediately begins to search for his mother. The story ultimately ends after he reasonably concludes that his mother could only possibly be a bird. Along his journey, however, he meets several other animals and artificial objects — which curiously illustrates my voyage to happiness.
The baby bird in P. D. Eastman’s story quickly resolves to find his mother once his egg hatches and discovers that he’s all alone. What’s interesting about his determination is that he doesn’t allow himself to get caught up in confusion about his mother’s whereabouts. Furthermore, while he doesn’t quite know how to fly, he tries anyway. At first, he falls on his ass, but he wastes no time getting back up. He, then, decides to embark on his journey by walking fast. While there are many interesting notions to point out here, the one I want to talk about is simple. Before I found my own path to happiness, I constantly entertained thoughts about not knowing who I am or what I was meant to do. My friends would mock me because they didn’t understand how I could make something that seemed evident to them so complicated. Sure, I was a Marine, a brother, a son, a friend, and someone whom found success without a college degree. These attributes could have easily resolved my identity crisis. However, in my mind, it wasn’t enough. I wanted more and, like the baby bird in P. D. Eastman’s story, I conquered confusion by running to find my muse.
On the baby bird’s journey to find his mother, he first encounters a cat. If you were fortunate to watch the Looney Toons on Saturday mornings, you’d know that Sylvester the Cat was always at odds with Tweety Bird. I imagine the same would have been true for the baby bird and the cat in Eastman’s story if it wasn’t a “beginner’s book”. In any case, the chick went against the norm. He fearlessly — however ignorantly — approached the cat to inquire about whether it was his mother. The same could be said about my approach to finding happiness or meaning, words which I consider to be interchangeable in this context. I’ve never been one to follow a standard. I question everything. Some might call it a disdain for authority, but I view being different as a chance to make positive change and deliver lasting impact — especially when you’re trying to reach a goal or accomplish a task. That means you must branch out. The baby bird’s encounter with the cat brought him closer to his goal of finding his mother. He could have comfortably remained in his nest but would have missed out on a valuable opportunity to be extraordinary and make a connection that could propel him forward.
Finding Your Way through the Improbable
The final encounter on the baby bird’s journey to find his mother was an excavator or snort as he called it. This excavator was huge and made a snort-like sound. It terrified the baby bird because it started moving and, by this point, he just wanted to go back home. He began to worry about what the snort would do to him, but what he didn’t realize was that the snort was only taking him back to his nest. In life, we often find ourselves in situations where we’re not sure how we’re going to get back home or whether the road we’re on is going to lead us to our destination. The baby bird assumed the snort was his mother and stepped onto the bucket and, when it started to move, he didn’t try to jump off. He only wondered where the snort was taking him. I think, like the baby bird, sometimes staying the course will eventually help us find our way through the improbable.
As mentioned previously, I think there’s a correlation between meaning and happiness. We seem to live in a world that is governed by emotions. We’re constantly talking about the need to feel or be happy. Why shouldn’t we? My argument, however, is that by conquering confusion, branching out, and staying the course we will discover a greater sense of purpose — leading us to find happiness in the unlikeliest of ways. I used the story of P. D. Eastman’s “Are You My Mother?” to convey my message because, as adults, we tend to overcomplicate matters. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and remember how much simpler life was like in our youth.
Here’s the video version of P. D. Eastman’s “Are You My Mother?” found on YouTube: