A letter to my toxic obsession with finding permanent happiness.
The first time I doubted your sincerity was when I failed to find you in my partner. Looking for you in love was more complicated than I was told it would be. I started wondering- did Cinderella question the fundamentals of her relationship with ‘Charming’ as often as I?
Then, when I tried to look for you in possible careers, these things called “my fears” suddenly cropped up. These kinds of fears -those of the unknowable- are new additions to my psychological machinery. They’re by-products of my transition into adulthood- kind of like wisdom molars (and just as painful in my case). Anyway, they hijacked the vision of you that naive little 15-year old me had constructed and, in a nutshell, reduced it to ashes.
Adulthood also meant that I got to hear stories about how you’re not really supposed to exist-
How grad-school is mostly just expensive slave-labour and romantic relationships are a truckload of effort and how some days just feel like they must be spent in bed. How there isn’t one panacea- meditation or exercise or antidepressants or living in the moment. How happiness isn’t just waiting for me like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but must be constructed day-by-day, moment-by-moment. And how simple and seemingly meaningless things like an argument with my parents, too little sleep or overworking to maintain perfect grades can mess with my ability to construct it.
What I learned was that you’re not where you say you are. You’re a liar and a thief. I spent a lot of my time trying to be with you. And I lost a lot because I only ever saw the idea of you. I’ve realised that you are what you are because you’re badly designed.
Let me explain:
A marriage, a baby, a promotion, an acceptance letter into Yale and a newly adopted puppy- among other experiences, these are times when you come close enough to reach; enticing your victim with false promises. Unfortunately, many unsuspecting individuals are infatuated and may grow obsessed with you. At the moments mentioned above, they may come to believe that they finally have you. But a few years down the line you leave only wanting to be chased again.
The thing with the world is that it doesn’t stop at peak moments. It is perpetually in flux. Nothing around you or me will last. Even the puppy- I know this is difficult to hear. You, on the other hand, approach your victim deluding them about how the source of their joy is never going to change in any way whatsoever. But the source changes and the person’s feelings change in response to it.
We live on a merry-go-round that is not going to stop until death. You’re running around it promising us that you’ll safely take us off and give us some of the stable ground. But the truth is we can’t get off without hurting ourselves because you’re not exactly careful. It’s time we recognised our stability is in the spinning. Now, if you were well-designed, you wouldn’t have been such a risky fit for the playground dynamics of the universe.
This change I mentioned that people undergo in relation to their own peak experiences is their adaptation to pleasure. They’ve got what they wanted and they’re happy. It’s even kind of predictable now so it’s not as exciting as before. You don’t account for this at all. You make people let go of these significant sources of meaning in their lives once they’ve adapted to them. They look for you instead, completely unaware of your own commitment issues.
You have the kind of demands that not even the mightiest have lived up to. People work really really hard to achieve the things you promise them will bring you to them. From the straight-A student who misses out on any experiences that don’t involve his GPA to that couple writhing together in a broken marriage- they’re all delusional because they’re sure you’ll pop around the corner at some point if they keep going. You tell them that.
In trying to find you, these individuals let go of things they probably should be appreciating. Let’s consider an example in depth. Think of that kid who worked hard to get into that PhD program and broke off the now strained connections with her friends and family. She continues to believe that things will only be smooth-sailing from. Of course, she should. She’s found her happily-ever-after in a world full of intelligent like-minded people. She found you the second she got her acceptance letter (and let’s not forget complete funding).
Yet, she doesn’t know how emotionally aggravating the months of isolation from work can be. Or the fact that quarter-life crises are a thing. Or that she will have to encounter, on a daily basis, countless inane, petty frustrations -and constantly push herself to swat them away like fruit flies- just to advance her thesis, even if it is by 0.5%. You don’t present that truth to people like her. She could’ve used those connections- phone numbers she’s long-deleted- for SOS calls to deal with the burdens she doesn’t realise will inevitably follow from the joy of getting in. Because life is all about how you deal with the burdens that follow.
You’re good at cat-fishing and you had me fooled but not anymore. I have recently joined a group of us who once used to desire your company. Not we banish you and your siblings-materialism, addiction and hedonism. We strive not to chase any of you by dubbing you all as unworthy of being sought-after. We also encourage others to see the likes of you for what you are- way too simplistic and narrow-minded for anybody’s good.
The kind of happiness I’d want to have is something I don’t find outside of me (i.e. you) but choose to create within me- through a focused and careful interpretation of the events that occur in my life. This was never officially mentioned so I’ll say it now- our relationship has been dead for a while and I’m realising it’s for the best.
P.S: I’m happier now than I ever was when I tried to be with you.
A renewed human being