Pursuit of the Living


We all strive for it

It is what we live for, after all.

Some achieve it, to some degree,

While others do not, yet they try and try ‘till the day they die


At 17,

One does not think much about the future

About where they’ll be in sixty years

Or what they will experience in those sixty years,

Should they even live that long


We are all sold on the idea of happiness

We are all sold on the American dream

Believing that in the end we all have it

That in our last days we will be living comfortably in a house of our own adorned with pink roses and

yellow chrysanthemums

We’ll be retired and surrounded by our loving family full of many children and grandchildren

And that we’ll always be next to the ones we love


But, as I came to learn,

That is not the case


At 17

My eyes were opened.

Working a maintenance job in the Redwood Forest,

Surrounded by elderly tourists

And by elderly coworkers,

Over time

I heard their life stories

And my eyes were opened


One coworker, over 70 years old

Still working,

Living alone in a rental home that was falling apart,

Living in a bad neighborhood full of violence and drugs,

Living a life that was falling apart at the seams,

Refusing to get help from the county, or from anyone at that matter,

Refusing to retire, as her job was all she had,

Lived a horrible life full of poverty, loneliness, abuse, and hate,

She had lost everything and all reason to live several years ago when her lover passed away,

His children took everything away from her

They were not her children, they did not care for her,

Nor about what happened to her

Since she lived in his house, drove his vehicles, and relied on him fully

She was left with nothing.

She had no children and no other family of her own.

She had no money; whatever money she earned went to rent and food,

She had none saved up, and nothing for retirement,

And no one was there to take care of her.

Yet, everyday she tried to get her coworkers to smile

To laugh

To enjoy life despite the roadblocks

Yet, she was still lonely

Her big, watery, dull, and yellow eyes

Told the story of her loneliness


All the while another co-worker

About sixty years of age

Was living the American dream,

She was living proof that one does occasionally achieve happiness

She had a house of her own

Had a loving husband

Five children who all loved her dearly

Many grandchildren, who also loved her dearly,

When she told stories of her grandchildren, you could see the pure joy emanating

From her bright, shining, blue sparkly eyes


The lonely coworker of 70 would hear those stories

And everyone could feel the solitude, depression, and jealousy emanating from her

She always seemed on the verge of tears when hearing those stories

Yet, the seemingly perfect coworker was so wrapped up in joy about her grandchildren,

That she never took notice

She never felt the loneliness wandering around the room


These two, polar opposites of each other in terms of life,

Were the ones who opened my eyes.

Two destinations on opposite sides of the spectrum

Serving as a way to teach me that my life could turn out like either one of them

That the possibility of my dreams not coming true are as strong of a possibility as them coming true

After all, the pursuit of the living is happiness


Everything we work for,

All of our time and energy spent,

Every one of our relationships and friendships,

Every aspect of life controllable by us,

Is to gain happiness.

Regardless of whether we will have it or not,

It’s the pursuit that intrigues us, that keeps the living going.


I’m 17, almost 18 now

I will soon be out of the nest that sits atop a redwood tree

Moved away from my parents’ home among the daffodils

Conducting my own pursuit of life and happiness


I don’t know where I’ll end up,

But that’s the beauty of the pursuit.

One will never know until they are there,

Whether among the beautiful flowers or the weeds,

One will never know.


This poem is about: 
My community


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