Is it just me, or is society today obsessed with happiness. No matter where you look there is some person, some brand, some icon, someone or something selling the next big idea or item that ought to bring us happiness. What’s more, we are being sold the idea that happiness is something we can search for; happiness is just around the corner, just keep following the little crumbs and one day soon, you will get the entire cookie.
But what is the cost of this? What does selling the idea that happiness is something that we can search for do to our actual attainment of happiness itself?
A while ago I decided that I would stop searching for happiness, and it was only then that I really started to understand what happiness actually was.
You see, I spent a lot of my former years thinking that happiness was like a vial of magic potion. Happiness was the cool confident chick or dude on the Hermosa Beach Boardwalk with that million-dollar smile. As I got older, happiness became having the newest trends, fitting in and being part of something that was, more often than not, nothing at all. But no matter how hard I thought I tried, I never actually understood happiness at all. Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough.
But the problem was that I did try. And those relentless efforts were undoubtedly part of my failure. Happiness isn’t an outcome; it isn’t a thing, it isn’t an identifiable path, it isn’t definable, and most importantly, it is different for each of us. And yet society has defined happiness. As if it were the perfect nude lipstick for all skin tones or a one size fit all pair of jeans for every gender shape and size. What’s more, happiness has been defined by conscious acts, rather than by states of being. Happiness has been defined as a state of constant searching : if you get to here, you get this, and this gets you a moment of happiness, and just keep searching and you will find your forever happiness! (Sounds awfully close to a Brave New World poster if you ask me).
And this just can’t be. Because if we define happiness by any one thing, by any outcome, by a state of constant searching, then we deny ourselves the real moments that bring forth happiness. There is no magic vile, no hidden door with a giant ‘H’ for happiness on it. There are no real rules, no set roads that one person can tell you to go down that will help everyone. Happiness is not a commodity, it is barely even recognisable when it creeps in the door. And see that is the point; I have learned that happiness finds you. The more I searched, the more lost I felt; the more hopeless I became to a world where I couldn’t define what I wanted so much to find. And then it clicked; one day, long long long after I’d started along a road of discovery; that happiness is impossible without knowing myself. The search was not for happiness, the search was for me. Happiness was in knowing and discovering me, little old crazy ass me. It was in every failure, every tear, every hard moment and loss. It was every relationship I had ever known, it was my childhood and adolescence, and one day it was my adult life too. It was every moment, every experience and decision that I had ever made which had ultimately brought me the closest I had ever been to being me.
And you know how I knew it was happiness? I felt it. In my bones, in my soul, my heart and my faith. It was driving home after jam packed days filled with work and volunteering and assignments and reading and dog walking and overall living and breathing, and hearing an old 90’s song, putting the window down and smiling. Because I was exhausted, but I was exhausted doing things I loved, things I was good at, but that also challenged the shoot out of me, things that make me feel bloody alive.
And that’s when I decided that happiness is unremarkable. Yet, it is simultaneously the most remarkable achievement I had ever attained. Happiness wasn’t loud, yet when it’s near me the whole world is on the highest volume. Happiness wasn’t fragile, yet, give it a moment, and can slip away. Happiness was every which I turned, and yet, nowhere at all.
What a conundrum this can all be. But, maybe not. Maybe in the limitless and infinite definitionlessness we find the truest meaning of happiness; and that is you. The you that has failed and gotten back up. The you that has had insurmountable successes, but came face to face with moments where you thought you would have to give up. The you that didn’t think you’d make it. The you that achieved something, starting something, became something, you never thought you would. The you that is still in wonder of what you can do and who you can be in a world of bumbling, wacky, irresistible chaos. The you that doesn’t quite know yet, but is fumbling through hoping that the next turn will maybe, hopefully turn out okay.
You find you first. You do you first. And then maybe, happiness will just come looking for you.