Its odd that I haven't written at all about what I'm actually on the road for. For a while it felt like the actual Nation of Happiness project wasn't going anywhere, and that I was just gonna be on the road for a long roadtrip. It was a great feeling however to finally meet people who were willing and happy to share their stories. Here's a short recap of the people I have met so far:
Shivey - Meeting Shivey was a great experience, as he is someone who I see as a figure for success in life. I met Shivey through my great friend Liz (who accompanied me on the first week of my trip) and her endless stories of "Shivey did this" and "Shivey did that". When I finally met him however the the first thing that stood out with just his pleasant demeanor and willingness to spare his precious time (he's working on a Ph.D, so time is definitely precious) for Liz and I. His stories and outlooks however are what I really took away from that meeting. Here is someone who really got it, someone who not only could articulate happiness and the what it took to be happy but also managed to live everything he spoke. He has every challenge in life as an opportunity and when those weren't enough seeked greater challenges in order to truly push and better himself. It was just amazing to see what sheer determination could do, whether it be getting you up a mountain or through a mountain of work.
Maxine - I met Maxine at a tourist information building in Newcastle WY. She was working there and helped me out with directions and lodging information for Mt Rushmore, and was kind enough to do an interview with me after business became lighter. Maxine has had a some major hardships in her life with both a loss of a husband and a son, and it was interesting to see how one copes with major losses like that and still go on with life. Her story is really about the struggle of happiness and about how one chooses or refuses to choose what it is that makes them happy.
Wally - I met wally a day later when I went to Jewel Cave. He was our tour guide for the visit, and after the tour we sat down in the old ranger cabin for an interview. Wally was an interesting figure in that he was definitely a man of choice and decision. It seemed to me that his life was a study in how major decisions pave the way for one's future. He started out in the military and later moved into the ministry, where he stayed for 2 decades. After seeing less and less progress, he changed his life again and worked in the correctional facility counseling at risk youth, and even went as far as to adopt some of those youth into his own family. Having finally retired from this he spent a year off before being spurred to take another career change and go into the Park Ranger service, which is where he is today. Its amazing to see someone who not only has gone through so much change in his life, but done so on his own accord, and in doing this managed to both meet and redefine what his own personal happiness is about.
Joey - Meeting Joey was as much of an experience for him as it was for me. We met at Milwaukee Brewing Company where he was there with some of his family and friends. It was bit of chance encounter, as it started with a simple request for me to take a photo of their group. We got to talking about the tour and then about myself and my trip, and even before I made the request for an interview he already had told me what it was that made him happy, which is seeing someone like myself undertake a trip like this. He stated how far too many people dream of doing something like this but far too few actually follow through with it, for a variety of reasons. I think I would have easily fallen into latter category (and indeed have many times in the past) had I not been unhappy with things enough to finally undertake this drastic change in my life. Whats funny about this is that in the grand scheme of things, I actually had very little to be unhappy about. I think I just felt that without doing something truly major with my life at this point that I would never get this opportunity ever again. There's been many times in the past in which I know I've let opportunities big and small go, and it was about time I capitalized on a major opportunity when everything was right.