By Carl Amolat, MTI Contributor
BLUF: When I was deployed to Kuwait in 2022 I first found the article about the Happiness Formula during some downtime. Needless to say, aboard Camp Arifjan during my deployment and during my subsequent demobilization and return to my home in Florida I spent quite a bit of time thinking over the matter.
An old Soldier joke says that one should be on the alert when a major says ‘I’ve been thinking’. With that I tell my story about the Happiness Formula.
Recapping The Happiness Formula: Rob’s article states that this consists of three things:
- Doing Work You Love
- Living in a Place You Love
- Being Near People You Love
Per the article, all of these added together form ‘happiness’ and honestly I find this to be a fairly accurate statement.
The Formula and I: As a man in my middle years and an Army Reserve officer I’ve been pondering the Happiness Formula over the span of the Christmas Season and into the New Year. It all started when I experienced the old adage of ‘when one door closes, another opens’.
In my own case I was a non-select to the rank of major a total of half a dozen times when I was on Active Duty with the US Army. Wanting to keep serving I decided to move my commission to the US Army Reserve in the summer of 2022.
Doing Work You Love (0.85): In several conversations with friends over the last 17 months I’ve said I’m happier in the Army Reserve than on Active Duty. Why? Well, that would be skipping ahead to the other two components of the formula.
As far as ‘Doing Work I Love’ is concerned I feel I reap the benefits of continued Army service, albeit on a part time basis versus full time.
In the past year or so in the Army Reserve I found my stride during our Annual Training, gained a professional certification (OSHA 511), and had a hand in running a successful safety program in Kuwait.
Comparing my Active Duty life, which spanned my late teens into my late thirties in two branches of the military to my Reserve life I would say that in my Active Duty life could be assigned a .75 value on the happiness scale and my Reserve life is a .85 on the same scale. Why the .10 delta?
One aspect of Active Duty life that started to get old for me in the past decade was the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move. I would build a social network and get the feel of a place like Kapolei, Hawaii only to have to uproot and move somewhere else.
Though I’m still figuring out what I’d like to do on the civilian side, I find being an officer in the Army Reserve quite rewarding, one of the reasons for doing so dovetails nicely into…
Living in a Place You Love (1 Point): I live in Florida, near places I love. Even if Florida’s weather can mean very hot and humid summers and winter weather that can be a tad schizoid I love my home state. As to the latter point I am not joking, during our winters is not uncommon to be wearing flipflops and shorts one day, and be bundled up in heaviest sweater one owns and wearing long pants and socks and shoes the next. Even when I was on Active Duty my leave form would almost invariably feature an address in Florida.
I’m a quick drive away from the Atlantic Coast and scenic drives up and down one of the most beautiful highways in the nation, A1A. Getting to appreciate seaside views, breathe in the scent of salt air, and indulge in the occassional cold pint and small meal at the water’s edge are simple pleasures of life that keep me going. A drive down A1A is like a recharge to my mental batteries.
Going further inland towards where my unit is based, I find my hometown of Deland, FL where my family has lived since the 1980s. I get several nice strolls down memory lane being at home, one of which is getting my haircuts at a barber shop patronized by three generations of my family since the 1980s. It’s a place where one can hear many good fishing and hunting stories told and retold. Many of the patrons and staff were are also veterans themselves and so many old stories from previous decades of military service are told and retold.
Beaches, mostly nice weather, decent cost of living and many a stroll down memory lane give Florida a full point on the happiness scale. But the thing that makes a place great is people, dovetailing nicely into the third point…
Being Near People You Love (1 Point): This particular point is especially poignant for me. When I was on Active Duty my grandparents, who played a significant role in my upbringing, passed away within two years of one another. In both cases I was stationed thousands of miles away. Though I was able to travel home for both funerals, being that far away was a blow. Since then I’ve resolved to maintain and strengthen my existing connections.
In Filipino culture family is key. Being a short drive as opposed to a long flight from my family is the single best thing about the move to the US Army Reserve. Within fifteen minutes to a couple hours I can be on the doorstep of family members I’m closest to.
I’ve gotten to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year with my parents, uncles and aunts, and cousins all without the prospect of getting on a plane to fly across the country for the first time in nearly eighteen years.
Though emphatically not a US Marine, I got to celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday with a longtime friend that I’ve known for twenty-five years. The next day I attended an open mat at a local Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy near my parents’ house, deepening existing connections and making new ones.
The above is a solid 1 on the Happiness Formula.
In Conclusion: I’m doing pretty damned good per the Happiness Formula article. The only reason that there’s a .15 delta is I’m still sorting out what exactly I’d like to do outside of the Army Reserve.
Minus that ‘sorting out’, things are going damned good on my end and as 2024 begins it is important I remember that.
Carl is a military officer and deep thinker with 18 years of service in both the US Army (Reserve and Active) and US Navy.