Earlier this week, I went back to Colorado. I left a boxed-up apartment behind in December. After I arrived at my old home, I attempted to make a quick grocery list to get me through the week. I looked through the freezer and fridge to see what I had left behind and the short answer was not much.
Silverware included. I think I took it all with me in the van. This is one of my talents when moving: I’ll have this grand plan for leaving out exactly what I need only to forget one critical element. For example, I’ll leave out a coffee pot with no cups. A skillet with no spatula. Or in this case, plates but no silverware.
At the store, I thought I’d get a mixed pack of cutlery – maybe 30 pieces that would include knives, spoons, and forks. However, when I rolled up to the area where that might be, the shelves were empty. My options? 50 knives, 50 forks, or 50 spoons. Or my third option: 120 in a mixed pack.
“Well, that’s wasteful,” I thought as I stared and tried to logically assess my best option. After thinking way too hard about it, I decided to go with 50 forks. Still wasteful, but a little less wasteful than a massive package, at least to my brain.
This great logic worked until the next morning when I was trying to put coffee into the espresso maker. When I was buttering waffles. Eating cereal. I can keep going.
It was ridiculous. I am ridiculous. I’m just stubborn enough to try to use a fork for everything. I did. Even when it made a mess. Even when it didn’t make sense. All to what? Save a couple bucks and some more plastic from getting into the ocean? I don’t even know what rule I was trying to follow or what I was trying to be “right” about. What silverware I would need? How much money I should spend? How much I should waste?
It made me think of that line: “to a man with a hammer, everything looks like nails.” To a person with all the rules, everything looks like a right or wrong decision. Even a box of plastic cutlery.
Is it better to be right or happy?
The wrong decision here was to suffer through it. To decide to create the mess and add frustration simply because I wasn’t going to be “wrong.” Regardless of how we each feel about the environment and waste, there’s no need for banging your head against a wall. Or stabbing aimlessly with a plastic fork, as the case may be.
The wrong decision was to choose being right over being happy.
I’ve written a lot about breaking the rules in these letters because there’s nothing that has made more of an impact on my happiness than letting go of the rules over the last two years. I see over and over again that happy people live lawless lives.
No, I don’t mean they run stoplights and waste plastic endlessly. They don’t murder people – although that’s how it was always presented to me. I’m sure more than a few of you have been there – someone in your life presented an option as if everything would end if you didn’t take their path. Maybe someone convinced you to go to college, for example. They presented college as this or that. (That was my story. Read more in this week’s post.)
“You can’t be careless. You can’t live without a plan,” they said – as if all hell would break loose and I would shatter some precarious balance between me and my destiny by choosing what makes me happy. As if I have to complete the obstacle course and follow the rules before I can be happy.
Happy people are lawless in that they don’t care about being right. It’s not this decision or some ominous alternative. It’s not happiness or losing everything. Knowing everything, controlling everything, forcing it? Not their goal. They focus on experiences, not expectations. They listen to their instincts and act accordingly.
I’ve only recently begun to tap dance with happiness and release my rules after 30+ years as a complete control freak. To accept that I will never have life “figured out” and anyone who says they do probably shouldn’t be trusted. Every day is practicing choosing happiness over avoiding some idea of being wrong, right down to the plastic silverware.
As I (virtually) stood in front of my friends at the Coming Out Party Tuesday night (ICYMI, there will be more), I was happy. Truly. For years, I told myself I couldn’t be trans and… a CEO. Successful. Loved. I took a risk to tell my story and in return, these beautiful and brilliant smiles showed up. An army of people who are willing to break any rule that makes people feel bad for who they are.
An army of people proving me wrong. That trans lives matter. That we can all be better, more accepting parents. That we can have fulfilling careers. That there is something allies can do.
I’ll remember this night for the rest of my life.
I feel energized. Ready – to keep educating, creating, and building belonging in spaces where people felt like the rules ruled out their happiness. (If you want to talk about bringing me in to your company, snag a time here.)
And until then, I hope you keep breaking all the rules. You don’t have to choose being right or happy. Buy those damn spoons.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.