Happiness is one of the largest misconceptions for my generation. We’ve generally been told that if it makes you happy, then you should do it. Happiness seems to be an utmost goal. Our Constitution says it. Sheryl sings it.
In fact, we shock people when we say we aren’t happy. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post where I said I wasn’t happy. I forgot I even wrote these words and became surprised when the post dropped and a number of friends reached out asking, “Are you really unhappy?”
While I appreciate their concern, I think we should be okay with transitory unhappiness. Sometimes we need to be unhappy. Happiness is not a perpetual state. It’s also not universal thing. While I was unhappy with one facet of my life, I felt happy about many others. And I needed that unhappiness to spur me forward, to make me challenge myself and see other opportunities. I would argue it’s impossible to maintain an equilibrium of positivity and growth for long periods.
Because we become desensitized. Happiness is relative. What is happiness to us at one time may not be happiness twelve months later. Or 72 months later. Complacency replaces happiness. We loved them then; they hurt us now. But we worry: we were happy. If we leave them, we will become unhappy.
And we will be unhappy. And how shocking, how terrible, how avoidable!
But just as happiness is not forever, neither is unhappiness. We find other pleasures, other triumphs, other ways to feel complete.
What made us happy then will not make, or keep us, happy forever.
I think of my Happy the Hippo beanie baby I had growing up. For weeks, I wanted that beanie baby. This was the mid-‘90s when Ty ruled the market—not Apple or Abercrombie or Blackberries. The most sacred of beanie babies to me were Peanuts the periwinkle elephant; Peking the elusive giant panda; and Happy the Hippo. I never got Peking, but I did get Happy (and Peanuts) for Christmas. And I was happy. (Don’t you love all the metaphors packed into this parable?) But how long was I happy? For days, I played with Happy. For weeks, I had Happy. And years later, I don’t know what happened to Happy.
But I’m still happy.
I think that story sounds dumb, too, but I also think it makes the point: happiness is fleeting. Happiness will come again. Happiness is a pursuit. It’s a journey. Don’t be afraid to forget what made you happy and find new things that make you happy.
I will not challenge you or myself for life’s ultimate goal. Not even religion fully addresses that. In the simplest of terms, we are seeking happiness. But we can’t be afraid to endure temporary unhappiness to achieve even greater happiness.
We should leave those that hurt us, though they once made us happy. We should abandon goals we once sought that now hold us back. We should ask if this is happiness or is it just what used to make us happy.
Sheryl croons, “If it makes you happy, then why the hell are you so sad?”
Because we’re trying to be happy again.