Happiness, thinkers have tried to figure that one out for thousands of years. They’ve come up with squat.
You’ve probably met plenty of rich assholes who still seem miserable. Not that it justifies global poverty.
Just sayin’ — robbing the poor doesn’t make you any happier than actually being poor, nine times out of ten.
It just ups the stock price of your agony.
Maybe you’ve seen this movie, There Will Be Blood. It’s a study in sadness. The main character, Daniel Plainview, generates a vast fortune — with nobody to share it with. Near the end, he calls his own adult son a “bastard from a basket,” after years of abuse and neglect.
No father of the year awards for this guy.
Spoiler alert: After alienating his son, Plainview murders a pastor with a bowling pin, in his own private bowling studio…
In his mansion.
And we’re pretty sure he’s going to get away with that shit.
We don’t really know what makes us happy all the time. But we know what doesn’t. We know what makes us less happy. We know what can pull us away from the little moments that make life good. It’s a long list, and not something any of us can exhaust. But for starters…
Killing yourself at your job
Not everyone wants to work all the time. And yet, some of us have several jobs. Parent. Teacher. Spouse. Boss. Middle-manager. Writer. You can’t do them all perfectly all the time.
Out of all my jobs, I’ve come to hate management the most. It’s the one where I sink in the most time, and get the least done.
So I’m ditching it. End of story. If something is causing you a great deal of misery, and you can let it go, then just do it.
P.S. — you can’t just let a kid go. There’s, like, laws about that…
Letting someone else decide what you want
Everything about life is hard. It’s supposed to be. But hard doesn’t mean unhappy. That happens when we outsource decisions.
You can let your parents decide everything. Many adults do, without even admitting it. They try to live up to their expectations.
You can let social media, television, or anything else tell you what you desire. It’s a profession. Plenty of people make tons of money off telling you what you want. Pulling the plug on that takes courage, but it’s the first step toward actual happiness —not just programmed pleasure.
Plugging your ears
Some say ignorance is bliss. Bullshit. It’s the fast track through the slaughter house. Somebody wants to fatten you up.
You can shrink your world down to good news. But it’s a small cage. The wider universe has lots of uncomfortable truths.
Freedom comes with a price. You have to live with the knowledge of daily atrocities. You can do something about some of them — but not all of them. Powerlessness makes us afraid. But it’s a fact.
Trying to be normal
It’s just another word for boring. A bunch of people who all act the same way, wow. Sign me up. Just kidding. Wink.
Some humans lack such imagination, they have to exclude others in order to feel important. They’re weird. Just weird together.
You don’t need that shit. Whatever makes you different, don’t suppress it to please someone else. Nourish it.
Assuming you’re not Jack the Ripper’s grandson.
Spending all your free time at bars
In your 20s, it’s kinda cool. You’re all single, or will be soon. And you have the metabolism of a giraffe, to process all that booze.
You want to meet everyone else in the world. True enough, most of my best friends — even today —go back to when we hung out in coffee shops and bars all the time. But eventually, that shit had to stop.
You made your friends. Or you didn’t. If you’re pushing 30, it’s time to start looking somewhere else for your tribe.
Unless you’re the cast of “Cheers,” then carry on…
Pining for someone’s approval
Love. Friendship. Kinship. Acceptance. None of that has anything to do with approval. It’s something we made up.
If you’re asking yourself whether someone “approves” of you, then something much more complicated is going on.
You want something from them that they’re not giving, and neither of you have the slightest fucking clue what that even is. So maybe just drop the act and have a real conversation.
Chasing after what you can’t have
I’m not the most stable person in the world. And even I can tell when something’s just not gonna happen. The world is full of Brie Larson stories. Persevere long enough, and you’ll get to be Captain Marvel.
The world is also full of Taylor Swift stories, Miley Cyrus stories, and Linsday Lohan stories. They’re the ones tapped early on as talented, but never quite reached their promised potential.
Nobody has any idea if your quest will turn out like Captain Marvel’s. It’s really on you to pull off something like that.
Hurting someone for personal gain
Maybe capital H-Hell doesn’t exist, like they say. So what? Only a true psychopath can live with the knowledge that something they did, voted for, decided on, or somehow tolerated resulted in someone else’s misfortune. It’s called a dirty conscience.
The saddest but truest fact about the world —someone can still enjoy every material benefit like money, comfort, and even sex, even after committing the worst kinds of crimes against humanity.
And yet, we know many of these people have killed the possibility of true happiness in themselves. If nothing else, no self-respecting human being can stand their presence anymore.
Taking the easy way out
Happiness comes at the most unexpected times. One minute, you dread doing something. Like changing your daughter’s diaper. Again.
Or giving her a bath. Again…
But that’s when happiness strikes. Not when you get the thing you’ve always gone after, but when something you felt meh about surprises you with a smile, or a squeal. Or a paycheck.
So far, my daughter has only handed me stale Cheerios from the floor.
It’s weird that a lot of the things I thought I’d hate actually wound up making me far happier than my original dreams would’ve. Turns out, we avoid a lot of things we consider hard.
No matter what happiness looks like to you, there’s no clear cut path. Anything that looks that way, it’s probably a mistake. The road to your happiness is grown over. It’s going to scrape you up. Put on your long sleeves and gloves. Pack your machete. And a lunch.