Sometimes, it’s hard to be happy.
I’ve realized that happiness is weird. Like, conceptually. That it’s something we expect from people—that is, we expect people to be happy. And that when people are unhappy, we assume they’re doing something wrong.
I realize I’m not the first person to come to this realization.
Unhappy with your job? Work harder. Get a promotion. Or stop whining, quit, and start a new career. Unhappy with your partner? See a couple’s therapist. Make it work. Or get your shit together and break up, because no one wants to *hear it.* K?
“If you make good choices and avoid major fuck ups, your life will be good,” we tell each other. “You’ll be happy.”
Most people want to be happy by most conventional metrics of happiness (good health, love, money). Most people want to see the best in most situations so they can be happy. In other words, most people try to will their happiness into being.
To be clear, I am most people.
I’ve been told I’m an optimist. I don’t think that’s always meant as a compliment. I think my optimism often presents itself as blind. As bullshit. As not taking into account the sad reality of the present situation. I think that’s true. Optimism is hopefulness. And hopefulness is predicated on some ignorance of the worst possible outcomes of, again, the present situation.
Over the past two years or so, I’ve experienced some extended bouts of severe unhappiness. Through those depressive periods, in the moments I’ve seen clearly, I’ve tried to tweak the tweakable materials of my depression. Live consciously. Quit Adderall. Talk to my family more often. Be a more available friend.
There are times, though, when I feel like there’s nothing I can do to improve my condition. That I’m bound to be unhappy. That I’ll inevitably mirror sources of my unhappiness. That my emotional fate is out of my control. That I can be a good person, but that my life won’t match my character. That the world is, actually, not that good.
When my consciousness takes one of those turns, I know that people like me less. Because when I’m unhappy, it’s a little bit harder for people around me to be happy. Not just because I’m “moody”—moods (especially when they’re not yours) are incredibly annoying—but because depression stands against the cultural imperative to be happy.
Funnily enough, I’m writing about unhappiness, finally, because right now, I do feel happy. I’ve felt mostly happy for a few weeks. And I guess it’s fair to say that I’ve been choosing happiness. I haven’t been taking Adderall. I’ve been calling my parents. Both good choices I intend to keep making. But the process has been a little more complex than simply “choosing happiness” allows.
I don’t want to disempower myself in this whole business of happiness. You heard it here first: I’m trying to be happy. I want to make good choices, and I want to be happy.
But sometimes, yes, it’s hard.