When I was a kid, I use to wish for the same thing every year on my birthday. Want to guess what it was? It wasn’t for more toys or candy or to be rich and famous. Even as I got older, I didn’t wish to be skinny and beautiful or for my parents to get back together.
Every year I wished for the same thing. As I closed my eyes and blew out the candles, I would whisper a single word inside my head: Happiness. Why? Because even at a young age, I was sold on the lie that if I could have happiness, I wouldn’t need anything else. Well, spoiler alert… no magical genie, fairy godmother or omniscient being came around to grant my wish; and let me tell you, growing up as a kid who wished for happiness on her birthday does some pretty serious shit to your psyche.
Eventually, I stopped having birthday parties with birthday cakes and birthday candles to blow out. The opportunity to wish for happiness slowly disappeared, but the desire to be happy never went away.
It wasn’t until I experienced happiness for the first time that I felt the full extent of the lie we’ve all been sold. I don’t mean the I just got a new car kind of happy or the birth of a child kind of happy, I mean the pure state of being happy. It was a random night in college. I won’t get into all the fuzzy details right now, but I remember looking around feeling this warmth start in the pit of my stomach and slowly move though the rest of my body. In that moment, I felt like I had everything I could possibly need and nothing else mattered. That warmth lasted for the rest of the night.
Then a funny thing happened. I woke up the next morning and that feeling was replaced with a slight groggy annoyance at the construction workers outside my apartment. As I continued on with my day, I felt frustration towards my roommate for not washing the only knife we had. I felt anxiety while taking the midterm I did not study for. I felt excitement when I got a text from a boy I really shouldn’t have been excited about. It was in those 24 hours that I realized the anticlimactic truth about happiness.
Happiness is not some magical milestone that you reach one day, it’s not a way of life, it’s not even really a choice. It’s just another goddamn fucking emotion. As Mark Manson so perfectly puts it:
If you have to try to be happy, you will never be happy. . . Happiness, like other emotions, is not something you obtain, but rather something you inhabit. When you’re raging pissed and throwing a socket wrench at the neighbor’s kids, you are not self-conscious about your state of anger. You are not thinking to yourself, “Am I finally angry? Am I doing this right?” No, you’re out for blood. You inhabit and live the anger. You are the anger. And then it’s gone.
THE GUIDE TO HAPPINESS by Mark Manson
I had spent my whole life wishing for happiness, thinking that there was some portal of enlightenment I would one day cross over and everything would be alright; and as I continued to wish for it, I was feeling every emotion in the book but happy. I felt sadness that I didn’t have it. I felt anger that it seemed like other people had it and I didn’t. I felt fearful that maybe I would never have it.
This lie, it’s so problematic. It leads people like myself to believe that they are living unfulfilling lives, that there’s a better life out there and if they could just somehow obtain it then they’ll be happy. When the truth is happiness, like any other emotion, is fleeting. It’s an emotion you’ll likely experience a lot less often than others. As you can tell from the name of this blog, we often use happiness as a broad term, when what we’re really searching for is mental wellness – a stable state of being ruled by self-acceptance, functional coping methods, and sustainable productivity. Mental Wellness, whether you call it happiness, inner peace, etc, is obtainable and it’s what I should have been wishing for all along.
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed medical professional. My advice comes from personal research and experience. If you are looking to make any major changes or need medical advice, please consult your doctor.