Buddha, Daniel Tosh, and Me

By: Alyssa Gagnon, Regular Contributor

I graduated with my master’s degree a few months ago and since then I have been on a roller coaster of transition. One week, I will be incredibly content: fulfilled in my job, and in the rest of my life, and then the next, I know there is so much more that I want. 

I’m working a job that I didn’t ever plan on working. It’s not what I am passionate about, and if I am being completely honest (which I am, because isn’t that the point here?), I know that someone else in my position could do a better job. I also know that being in this job is a part of what is making me feel unfulfilled. 

I want to do something meaningful, and I want to do something I am passionate about. I want to work in publishing, and right now I feel like I am working in a purgatory. 

There is a Buddhist story that deals with this feeling, and it’s been incredibly helpful in the past, with jobs that left me feeling less than great. In this story, the Buddha and Ananda enter a town in which they are unwelcome: people throw stones and yell abuses at them. Ananda suggests to the Buddha that they leave and move on to another town, to which the Buddha replies that the next town could be just as bad, if not worse. In another sense: the grass is not guaranteed to be greener anywhere else. The Buddha told Ananda that they would stay in the town in which they were unwelcome and endure their suffering because that’s what Buddhists do, but also because growth and enlightenment comes through suffering.


Of course I could move on and change my situation. And that, of course, would have the potential to make me happier and more fulfilled, but what if it doesn’t? I refuse to move through my life with the mindset that “I’ll be happy when…” I choose to be happy now.

This means that instead of making any kind of rash decision to “escape” my “suffering,” I am going to sit with it for a time and see what comes from it. I can tell you that thus far, I’ve gained an immense amount of knowledge, both in hard skills and skills that form simply by virtue of being in a difficult situation. I am grateful for those and look forward to what else comes to me. 

Right now, I am Ananda, and am listening intently to the Buddha’s suggestion. Instead of wallowing in a sense of suffering, I will look at this period of my life as pure potential. I can make it what I choose, even if I don’t physically change anything. 

Another wise man, a comedian, once said that there is a way to make your life many times better without doing any actual work: lie. And while this isn’t the best advice on the surface, if we read into it, it makes a lot of sense! If we convince ourselves that there are always positives in any situation, we will find those positives! 

The most powerful tool I have is my mind, and I am going to use it to make the most of what would otherwise be “suffering.”

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About Alyssa

alyssa_g.jpgAlyssa grew up on a diet of grilled cheese, books, and ice cream with books predominating. She recently graduated with a Master’s degree in English and lives in her favorite place with her favorite husband (she only has one). Post-graduation, her plans are to start a new women’s magazine that leaves women feeling GREAT about who they are, and to open a publishing house for untapped talent.





image via wordfromthewell.com



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