Damn the media for skewing my idea of happiness, it takes a lot of work to undo that which has taken so long to entrench. It also takes a whole lot of unhappiness to realise that life isn’t rosy and has little to no purpose. Perhaps I am just incredibly cynical and will become my own self-fulfilling prophecy.
I get the sense that this constant pursuit for happiness is unique to my generation. I think it is the combination of media telling us that everything is attainable through hard work and having too much choice for our own good. It is a plague of Generation Y that we have been fed lines like “if you believe it, you can be it” or “success is just around the corner” and this has resulted in a “never settle” mindset. There always seems to be bigger and better on the horizon and this applies to relationships, work, friendships, travel, nothing is ever present, it is always about next. So much happiness for our generation is placed on an idea of success that revolves around status and finance, where enough will never be enough.
Questionably the worst pictures painted are those of romantic success. Love is made to seem quite attainable but as has been proven to me more often than not, it does not exist in its idealised romantic form. We are fed this image of a breath-taking experience, of one day walking into a dusty bookstore and while paging through a book of Coleridge’s work you are taken aback by a gorgeous stranger who is fingering an edition of Ender’s Game to look up and to have his breath taken away in turn. Then you ride off into the Turneresque sunset living happily in some kind of beautifully intellectual forever. Well, that is pretty specific, but everyone has their list of perfection. You might find someone who takes your breath away initially but then once the romance is over and you both begin letting yourselves go and blaming your unhappiness on the other, it is slightly less breath taking. I think that I might find a lot more happiness in my own oneness. There is something satisfying in the deafening alone to me.
Let me not though make you cynical like myself, I wish that upon no one. It is important that you make your own definition of happiness. Ask yourself what your days and weeks need to be filled with to be joyful to you. Mine seems to be a simple life filled with writing, art, travel, financial comfort, quiet contemplation and stimulating conversation. Yours might be one filled with excess, a large family with the person you love, and a job filled with status, do not dampen those dreams if they will make you joyful. Each experience is unique and fulfilling subjectively, just ensure that it is true to you.
My most recent existential crisis that of course inspired this piece; was brought on by my realisation that I had placed a large portion of my happiness in what I thought was to be a dream job. However, like many romances, it lost its sparkle rather quickly and I am left feeling disappointed and have questioned what will bring me happiness in my work. How do I need to fill my 9-5 to be joyful and productive? I had begun blaming the people around me; my direct report, my clients, and previous employers but concluded that the job could make many people happy. If you had to place someone else into my position, they could find happiness easily and enjoy coming to work everyday. I could just leave and go to something else, but what I have also learnt is that I would probably be just as unhappy or unhappier somewhere else. The grass is not always greener, sometimes you just need to put in some effort on your side of the fence. Water your grass a little, plant a tree, maybe some install some sad attempt at a swing set and appreciate the sunshine until the garden gate opens itself to the next garden that will require some effort too. Never settle for a situation of unhappiness, settle for a path towards an idea of happiness and find joy in the walk, don’t pressurise yourself so much to achieve happiness, that goes against the idea.
This speech by Tim Minchin has brought me great satisfaction in the past.
If this is the only interaction you have with this post, I will be glad.
Take it to heart dear reader.