For the majority of my life, I viewed the concept of happiness as a dichotomous switch – either you are or you aren’t. And to a certain extent, I suppose that still holds true. But the more detrimental implication of this way of thinking was that I saw happiness as an end goal to reach, something that I could possess only if I tried hard enough. So what was the problem?
It seemed that the harder I pursued it, the further it slipped out of my grasp.
As the years went by and I started growing out of the confusing, messy haze of adolescence into the even more terrifying realm of young adulthood, I began to hone in more and more on the fact that I simply wasn’t happy.
I became increasingly more fixated on “becoming” happy; it was a devious puzzle that seemingly had no solution. I approached it from every angle I could think of, and laid out plan after plan…although I didn’t exactly expect to wake up one morning and suddenly realize I was happy (a miracle!), I did anticipate the spontaneous realization of happiness. There would be a clear delineation in my life’s timeline when this happened – a neat and singular marker that separated “Jen Before Happiness” and “Jen After Happiness.” It sounds odd when I put it into words now, but my way of thinking clearly supported this impossible hypothesis.
Lately I’ve been tired. Tired from working, working out, school, and just generally trying to operate as a functional human being, but tired of this pursuit. Approaching happiness as a methodical goal to be obtained has left me going in circles, and it seems I’m drifting further away in the process.
I have come to think maybe happiness isn’t a destination I will one day arrive at if only I tried hard enough. Instead, I have been wondering if happiness is actually a dynamic skill that needs to be practiced.
I suppose this distinction is something akin to the difference between simply running to get to Point A and practicing to get better at the skill of running itself.
Now, such a fundamental change in the way one thinks isn’t going to be an overnight switch either. There is obviously no standardized manual to the “right” way to happiness, and I’m just as in the dark as anybody else. But simply reminding myself that I will get progressively better at being happy if I paid attention to certain self-sabotages – negative thoughts, disconnecting from the present, and ruminating on things I have no control over, to name a few – already helps.
The idea that I could be happy right this second if I wanted to is quite a powerful insight. Now, I’m definitely not espousing that life is all sunshine and rainbows spouting out of kittens’ assholes only if one chooses to see it that way. No matter how objectively you view it, sometimes life just sucks and is just generally gritty, dirty, and so fucking hard.
But focusing on what I do have supreme control over – my mind – is doing myself hell of a lot more favors than running endlessly in the proverbial rat race towards an arbitrary finish line that doesn’t even exist.