Every day we are all assaulted with the concept of happiness. Media, messaging, “research” touts this mythical framework, this unattainable state of being:
Five Steps to a Happier You
Happiness is a journey, not a destination.
Good Days Start with Gratitude
For years I struggled. I was constantly asking myself questions surrounding this nebulous idea:
- Why am I so unhappy?
- Why is everyone else happy?
- What did I do to deserve being unhappy?
- How can I get happier?
- If I lose weight and get a boyfriend, will I finally be happy?
- Am I fucked up for not being happy?
- Am I just an ungrateful asshole for being unhappy given that I have a roof over my head and food to eat?
- How can I hold onto happiness?
- If I am a better person and help others, then will I be happy?
- What does it mean to have a happy life?
But these questions had no answers. Everything was a lie. Because I have come to realize that happiness is a construct and not an actual way to live. Happiness comes at you in moments here and there but this overarching expectation that you do some kind of hard or virtuous work and you will get to a place of happiness is pure bullshit.
So I’m done with it. I reject this message. I will not fall for this propaganda anymore. My days of chasing the happiness dream are over and I refuse to promulgate this myth.
Life is fucking hard. I’ve got a mentally ill brother, a narcissist mother, an ill father, and a pile of student debt that will last at least my lifetime, if not my future children’s. I work 12 hours a day. I am faced each day with a society that hates women, hates people of color, hates immigrants. Climate change is real and the earth is dying. We are all dying.
But there are good things too: an incredible partner, supportive friends, a small baby-man-friend in the form of one rambunctious beagle. My apartment is cozy and I have an in-unit washer/dryer. I go on cool trips occasionally. I eat melted cheese on a regular basis. All of these things bring me joy.
Who among us can’t create their own parallel lists? Some things are terrible, some things are great, most things are meh. Is this what you think of when you think of a happy life? Probably not. But this is a real life, and one that I bet is remarkably similar in its ebbs and flows, ups and downs, to the lives of many of those who are clinging to this belief that they if they do this one thing, they will get to some kind of everlasting happiness realm. How are you different than me? Why do you think you will get there? Because you will it to be? Because you are more optimistic than me? I wouldn’t count on it.
I guess I just don’t understand why we are we still spreading the dangerous and harmful message that we must constantly be working, striving, busting our asses to achieve a thing that isn’t even real? For so long I thought there was something seriously wrong with me because I couldn’t grasp happiness. Every time I caught it, it slipped away in wisps, my nails digging into my fingertips as I tried so hard to hold onto it. It wasn’t fair, why was everyone else happy and I was so miserable? But it’s just not true. You are just as miserable at times as I am. And instead of trying to make me choke down this endless loop of positive mantras through your petrified-wood-smile plastered on a tear-streaked face, maybe we should all just admit our miseries, let each other cry and scream and be mad and ungrateful, and accept that we might be happy for 3 minutes and then unhappy for the next 72 hours and then happy again for 2.
I know I’d feel a lot less lonely.