As human beings, we are both gifted and cursed with the ability for self-reflection which eventually leads to the question – why exactly are we on this earth? For the past 20 years of my life, I believed that happiness was the purpose. The goal, the final destination, the golden key that would magically fix everything. “What do I want in life?” I’d ask myself. The answer used to be happiness.
Now I realize how ridiculous that was. Happiness or joy is a feeling. A feeling that is fleeting like all other feelings. What I was seeking – to eventually be able to live a life of perpetual happiness – is impossible. In fact, if I met someone who consistently appeared bouncy, cheerful and overflowing with joy, I’d be a little concerned and recommend them to a therapist. I woke up this morning and as I brushed my teeth, staring into my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I was… not excited, not happy, not joyful. But nor was I sad or depressed. I was simply content in knowing that I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing – brushing my teeth in preparation for the day. My prior mistake was made in thinking that the absence of happiness was sadness. Why am I not actively feeling happy? The answer is simply – we are not supposed to be happy all of the time or even the majority of the time.
So what instead should we be seeking if working towards constant happiness is a futile effort? At the relatively young age of 21, I’m still open to options but I have come to think that the ultimate goal should be wisdom. Wisdom comes with experience. It comes in all various aspects of life. Social, academic, professional, recreational. Understanding the kinks of creating meaningful relationships. Being able to communicate effectively – whether to friends, family or significant others. Becoming familiar with the crevices of your mind and not allowing yourself to fall into paranoia or deep delusional insecurities that keep you chained. Being able to not take rejection personally and let it suck you into the quicksand of self-criticism. Gradually improving at handling stress even if that means carrying small bars of chocolate with you everywhere. Knowing what response to give to negative or rude remarks that will maintain your own dignity and self-respect. Keeping your head on your shoulders even when it’s one of those days where the world seems to be crumbling around you. Creating your personal balance between work and play that is known to bring you the least amount of stress and grief. Then exercising enough self-control in order to maneuver life with that exact proportion.
I could sit here for the rest of my life and jot down lists of tidbits of what I considered wisdom. However, the best way to become wiser is not to read lists of so-called wisdom but to go out into that exciting and dangerous world and learn through experience. Get your heart broken, mess up royally at work and get fired, have a screaming fight with your best friend. Work really hard and get that promotion, reach out and rekindle old friendships, accomplish that thing on your life bucket list that you’ve always deemed a bit unrealistic. Whether you succeed or you fail, as long as you put your best foot forward, you are always learning and with each step you will grow wiser. If wisdom is what you are actively striving for, soon you will know how to smoothly maneuver life in a mannerism that will maximize moments of happiness and joy while minimizing potholes of stress and depression.