The Pursuit of Happiness is Futile (It’s More Optimistic Than You Think)

Lucille Ball quote via incompletemagazine.com
Lucille Ball quote via incompletemagazine.com

Somewhere along this past year or so, I felt like I lost a part of myself. I could never put my finger on exactly when this happened, but this loss — my mojo, my juju, my passion — chipped away at me slowly.

Some days, I missed it more than others. Most of the time, I tried to stay so busy that I didn’t feel its loss at all. It’s hard to be introspective when you’re hustling and studying constantly.

I love learning. I’ve always thrived in school. It was my thing, the way other kids has sports and dance. I immersed myself in reading and knowing all the right answers. School gave me this kind of power, at a young age, that I could never achieve in any kind of (coordination needed) sport.

Yet, I couldn’t understand why this schedule was making me completely miserable. I was doing well in my classes and enjoyed the subject material — but every day felt the same. I felt like a total drone. I’d felt like I’d lost my sense of purpose — and it felt likeĀ  more than senioritis. I didn’t know how to deal with falling out of love with school.

It was burnout at its finest.

Now that I’m taking some time to reflect (truly reflect) on what brings me contentment. I’ve always chased after success, thinking success is going to make me happy (spoiler alert: it won’t!) or at least catapult me to the next level of contentment.

I’ve realized some things, chief among them: the pursuit of happiness is futile. I may be a realist, but I don’t think this is necessarily a pessimistic outlook. The fact is, life just happens, and you’re not so much pursuing it as you are just flying by the seat of your pants, trying to adjust before life shifts and you have to deal with the Next Thing.

Maybe I should rephrase this. Chasing after what might make you happy is like a lottery ticket. You don’t really know. But the things that make you happy right now? Those are a sure bet. And I’m not talking about the instant gratification of someone liking your photo on social media, or even the joy a sale at your fave shop (New York & Company, I’m looking at you…) can bring.

Confession of a control freak here: I’m all about finding a path. Toss me some sort of Life Plan and I get all excited about how bright my future will be. But life doesn’t work like that — the prospects of a future might excite me, but it’s so important to stand back and take notice of the good in your life right now before life takes me to a different place.

Day 4 Mantra: Don’t wait for happiness — experience contentment right now.

Little parts of today that made me happy:

  • Finding a quiet corner of the cafe to read with a cup of coffee
  • Strolling down the street, enjoying the last bit of good weather before winter settles in
  • Bumping into a friend
  • Listening to a thought-provoking podcast (I’m binge-listening to Radiolab, and today’s episode was Translation)
  • Inhaling the scent of fresh laundry
  • Journaling
  • Cleaning my room
  • Lighting a coffee-scented candle
  • Watching the sky turn dark
  • Gulping fresh water
  • Flopping on my bed and taking a moment to stare at my ceiling

What made you happy today? What are some things that ground you and reignite your mojo?

 

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