Wishful Thinking Is Hazardous to Your Happiness

“Be careful what you wish for.”

That’s what my sister used to say (long before it was the title of Texas’s 2003 album), and as usual when she waxed philosophical, she was right. It’s a smart twist on “The grass is always greener,” something my friends in the UK used to always tell me whenever I expressed my burning desire to move from New York City to London. They meant it in an up-with-NYC kind of way, but I hated it because it sounded so dismissive and trite. I live most of my life in big cities, surrounded by buildings and concrete, I thought to myself every time I heard those dreaded words. What grass?

But I do get it. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed my last six years of freedom. It’s been time well spent outside of the traditional 9-to-5 professional scheme. I feel lucky that I’ve been able to have this life experience. At the same time, sometimes in the morning when I’m coming home from jogging around Lumpini Park, and I see all the suited-up guys on their way to work, I feel a twinge of jealousy.

It’s the same feeling I used to get when I went to London on vacation, and I made the mistake of waking up too early — or still being up from the night before around the time when everyone was rushing to the office. They all had places they needed to be, places where they were needed. During those moments of weakness, my self-confidence started to flag. It was like the whole process could go on without me — and back home, it was. It’s the same thought that still occasionally runs through my mind when I’m jogging home.

The funny thing is that if I were to strike up a conversation with any of those worker bees during the hour each afternoon that they’re sprung from their employment cell and tell them what I’m doing with my life, they’d probably tell me how lucky I am. I know I’ll eventually be back walking in their uncomfortable shoes. I’ve just got to learn how to fully enjoy — without guilt, without envy — whatever time I have left.

It’s a similar situation with romance, which is what my sister was usually referring to whenever she warned me about wishful thinking. I think I want it, and then when I get it, I spend so much time either trying to extricate myself from it (best-case scenario), or wondering, worrying: Is he going to call? What did he mean by that? Does he like me? It’s probably the side of me that I like least.

When I’m single, as I am now, there’s no more of that. Now I can focus on the important stuff, like, “What’s that strange tingling in my right foot, and what possibly fatal disease should I Wikipedia next?” As much as I obsess over my health and my past loves (I’m a writer and a hypochondriac — what else am I going to do?), it’s actually nice not to have to deal with current romantic angst. I couldn’t care less if the phone rings, and that’s probably the way God intended it to be.

Yes, my sister was right. The last time I carelessly wished for something — that a certain someone would get in touch with me to wish me a happy birthday — my wish came true, though belatedly. I got the call I longed for, though it was to wish me well, not happy birthday. Sometimes I find myself wishing (yet again, because old habits die so hard) that I’d wished for something else because the grass on this side could really use some more fertilizer.

6 Great Songs About Wishful Thinking

“I Want the One I Can’t Have” The Smiths

“If Wishes Came True” Sweet Sensation

“Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” A Flock of Seagulls

“Four Leaf Clover” Abra Moore

“Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star” Merle Haggard

“Wishes” Nathan Morris

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