What is happiness?
Get a job. Get married. Buy a house. That’s the key to a happy and successful life.
Well don’t I feel like a serious underachiever. For as long as I can remember, society has pedalled the idea that these three elements were the key to happiness…and we completely buy into it. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with pursuing those things. I, for one, would love to have all those things one day. Not today, however, because today I choose smashed avo.
Where I disagree, is in establishing these milestones as the end point in our pursuit of happiness. So, having a great job and owning your home means nothing unless you put a ring on it (or have a ring put on you depending on your role in this scenario)? Or job + marriage doesn’t equal happiness because you chose avocados over a house deposit? (I’m a Melburnian and have a perfectly healthy obsession with avocados.)
A dive into definitions
On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved, justifying the independence of the United States of America and coining one of the best known sentences in the English language. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In 1776, happiness was not merely a subjective emotional state. Rather, it is thought to have referred to prosperity or, more broadly, well-being; encompassing everything from physical needs to moral and religious interests.
Today’s definition of the pursuit of happiness, however, affirms a right to chase after whatever makes one subjectively happy.
So if living the single life in a rented flat is what makes you happy, then do it, without any fear of judgement. Chase waterfalls, have all the kids, be a teacher, be a clown. You decide.
My happiness history
When I was 17, I secured myself a tax cadetship at PwC, aka the accountant’s mother ship. I thought that was it. My life was sorted. I had a great job, I’d soon find myself a nice auditor hubby from the 25th floor and I would be in my dreamy beach side digs in no time.
Ah younger me, you do make me laugh.
The problem with using such material things as a yard stick for happiness? You will never have enough, because you can always have more. More money, more houses, etc. Happiness becomes this elusive destination you are forever chasing.
At least, that’s how it was for me. I chased happiness all the way to London before I realised I was running towards a destination that didn’t exist.
For just one second, look at your life and see how perfect it is. Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there’s nothing else. It’s here, and you’d better decide to enjoy it or you’re going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.
The happiness project
As I write this, I have probably never been further from the life I imagined at 17. Believe it or not, I thought I knew exactly how things would pan out. Seriously.
I thought I would be another fish in the sea of business suits, coffee in hand, powering along Melbourne’s city streets. I thought I would have a wedding to rival the opening scene of The Wedding Planner. So not practical by the way, because, you know, allergies. I thought I’d have a place all to myself just lousy with succulents.
I don’t have any of those things…but, so what?
Enjoying the journey
Throughout all of the ups and the downs, one lesson stands out: find happiness in the small things.
Brunching, working out, people watching, exploring my city, reading. Those are the things that make me happy.
They may seem like small things, but sometimes, they turn into the big things. The big things that give your life meaning. You might even write about them one day.
So, as it turns out, I’m pretty lucky. I have a roof over my head, people to discuss Orange is the New Black with and UberEATS on the table, and that makes me pretty dang happy.
Life is wonderful when you don’t expect to be perfect.
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