The headline probably made you think this was going to be a depressing, melodramatic rant. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m a bit tired of those.
I just finished my first year of college. It was a non-stop whirlwind full of firsts, containing choices (good and bad) and consequences (again, good and bad.) All year, I heard “do what makes you happy” countless times. It became a kind of obsession. I pinned quotes that said things like “You are in charge of your own happiness” and “Happiness is a choice. Choose it.” Happiness became a fleeting, unobtainable state of being the longer I sought it out. Now I’m sitting outside while the sun shines, typing away. And guess what? I had a bad day at work, and my head hurts. I’m not happy. Guess what (again?) I could not physically care less.
Girls’ nights out, parties with my friends, splurging on clothes I didn’t need, and hanging out with significant others made me happy over the semesters. But all of those things couldn’t make me happy forever. The high wore off each time I did one of those things. I was happy for a few hours at most, and then I broke a heel on my favorite shoes or ran out of gas money or broke up with a boy, and the happiness I’d fought so hard for was shattered. Something besides my precious happiness won out every single time I achieved that happy status. And it killed me.
I remember one night in particular where everything seemed to go wrong. I ended the evening sitting in bed crying my eyes out to my best friend. “I try so hard, but I’m just not happy,” I wailed. My best friend, bless her, didn’t make fun of the makeup smeared down my face or my snotty nose and red eyes. She simply gave me a hug and a tissue from my nightstand. “You can’t be happy all the time. But you will be again.” After she went home, I sat awake all night in my pajamas, thinking. She hadn’t meant to make a deep, poignant point, but she had. Why do we spend so much time chasing an emotion that our brain will snatch away the second something doesn’t go our way? Why do we make poor choices in a blind effort to feel happy for a few hours? Why do we let something so delicate and fleeting rule our entire lives?
Happiness will come, and it will leave just as quickly as it came. Sadness will take over sometimes, as will jealousy, bitterness, and apathy. No emotion will stick around for very long, and that’s fine. We are human. We weren’t meant to be happy all the time; other emotions wouldn’t exist if that were the case.
So why don’t we try and be joyful? Joy is so different from happiness. Joy is knowing, even on our darkest days, that we are precious, valuable, valued, loveable, loved, and magnificent. Joy is knowing that, even when we despair, we will be happy again, and we will make it through whatever obstacles we face. Joy outweighs happiness in the same way that the sun outweighs a lamp. Joy is something permanent, something that doesn’t leave even when we’re crying our eyes out, sure we can’t possibly go on- but we do go on. We recover. We learn and grow and thrive because we have joy. So I’m done looking for happiness. I know, in the core of my being, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and that I will be just fine no matter what. That’s a conviction that happiness could never give me. And that’s something that will never, ever be taken from me. I am joyful because I am alive, and I am free. I am joyful because I love and am loved in return, even when it doesn’t feel that way. I am joyful because I am.
Why exhaust ourselves in an attempt to make our bodies and minds happy, when we could be doing things that make our souls full of joy? Happiness is great and all, but it doesn’t get you through the worst times of your life. No, happiness doesn’t go too far in the long run.
That’s where you’ll find me from now on: making choices best for me, even if they don’t make me “happy” in the moment, making choices that good for my soul, choices that bring me joy. I’m not searching high and low for happiness.
And I couldn’t be in a better place.