The Guide to Happiness
Is there one hard and fast path to reach happiness?
I think I was around 10 years old. I was an angry child, frustrated with the world and my place in it, full of rage I did not know how to express. I remember laying on my bed, feeling the weight of the world pressing down on me, and I felt an itch in the middle of my back that I just needed to get rid of. So I squiggled and squirmed, kicked the sheets off my bed and let out an exasperated scream I'd been holding in for my whole, entire, very short life.
My mum came running in, confused and a little bit scared. She saw the sheets, she saw the rage, and she did not know what to do. A couple of days later, she bought me a book. The Guide to Happiness, it read. I chucked it away without so much as reading the blurb.
Who did she think she was thinking I was not happy? Who was she to think that I needed a book to learn how to be so? I was not that damaged, not that sick. Oh, but if I only knew.
See, as a 10-year-old, what do you know of the weight of the world? Yes, your own problems of friends in school or your mum just not understanding you may do their best to push you down. But I hadn't even hit puberty yet, hadn't had to make decisions that felt like they'd decide the course of your future, and had barely even registered any problems that existed outside of my house—let alone out there in the world.
And yet, as these problems have fled into my life and I'm supposed to be facing them head-on with the weapons of "adulthood," I can't help but think about that 'Guide to Happiness.'
The more we grow up, the more we realise that the world isn't split up into happiness and sadness. Life is a rollercoaster of emotions that never lets you get off. Instead, it continues to throw new loops and spins in your way.
Ever felt the desire to care less? That's liberosis; and there you jerk around a sharp corner.
Felt restless or frustrated from pure boredom while you've been sick? There's alysm; and you jerk the other way.
Got a feeling that you're out of place? Welcome to monachopsis; and somehow you're free falling.
Finding happiness—or even being able to define it—becomes more and more like a fairytale.
Is it happiness if it's only fleeting? If it's not complete and all-consuming?
How can we be happy if someone else isn't; or only if others are?
What's the use of knowing what can make us happy if that feeling will fade after too much time or use? Or if it's unattainable, unethical, just an illusion?
Just thinking about happiness right now is just making me more frustrated than ever and confused as to why I set myself down this road to even talk about it.
But my real problem is that, most recently, I've been telling everyone that I'm happy.
I mean all signs point to the fact that I am. The past year has been a whirlwind in figuring out exactly what those ingredients I need to make me happy.
I left behind a corporate job, I was chasing my dream of having ownership over my own work, setting my own hours, travelling the world. This wasn't just a picture-perfect dream that I was living, this was actually my dream.
I'd accepted the hardships, embraced the doubt and started to know the comfort of the discomfort. This was a life in which I got to choose every detail from when I got up in the morning to when I went to bed at night.
And I have these moments of pure bliss. I'd be sitting, listening to the dulcet tones of an acoustic set, cold beer in my hand, watching the most incredible sunset that painted the sky in amazing different colours. In that moment, I was so full of contentment and disbelief that this was my life, that no bad things had space to come into my head. Is that happiness?
It feels too complacent to concede this as the that one feeling we spend our lives chasing. If we accept that our situation is good, that we're contented, where do we go from there? Maybe it's my own pessimism that happiness just means that something bad is just around the corner. Or it's my predisposition to remember just how hard it was to get to this point.
Being happy shouldn't just be a goal at the end of the tunnel.
It should be in the journey, right? The end goal might suck. It probably will—I mean, not to get morbid or anything, but the end for all of us is just death. But it's about being happy in the process of it all.
Happiness doesn't have to be particularly revolutionary or this mystical thing that we need a book to discover. Happiness doesn't make us scream it from the rooftops. It shouldn't make us as euphoric that we run on this crazy adrenaline that definitely cannot last.
It's OK to feel numb in the warm feeling and to know that being happy doesn't mean you forget about the bad. It doesn't mean you're done with life or that it couldn't change in the instant. It doesn't mean that in the moments that you cry or are stressed, you cannot be happy.
Because, yes, I think I'm happy. Despite all the things I have gone through, I am optimistic about the journey that I'm taking. That feeling in my back that I need to release with a tantrum in my bed is getting fainter and less important.
I probably won't ever find the book, The Guide to Happiness, again, nor do I really want to read it. Because you don't need a book to be happy. You just have to be.