At the risk of sounding completely emo and navel-gazing-y and dramatic, I have one question. What is the fucking point of ? Eat these green things, exercise in this way, think exactly like this, don’t think like this, do these behaviors, say these things, be these things, choose happy, feel your feelings, do this, be this, say this, eat this, sweat this.
Is anyone else ?
The echo chamber of well-meaning advice sometimes hits a fever pitch. We say there are no rules to live life by, except these ten steps to follow if you want to be happy. There is no way to define love, except these twenty ways to define love. I’ve contributed to this. I’ve ate it up. I’ve wanted a road map to a life that is imbued mostly with the crushing reality that everything around us is temporary and uncertain. I’ve held onto any certainty I can find or absorb, hoping it will make up for the lack of permanence and control that I actually have.
We all become control-freaks in our own way. We start exercise routines and meal schedules and we detox off alcohol or social media and we do these things that we think make us better, fitter, happier humans. Perhaps some of it helps, but most times it feels like we’re running on a hamster wheel trying to get to that one biscuit that will make us happy.
But, what’s the point of it all? When we become happy, we self-destruct, we light our lives on fire, we limit the amount of happy we can have in our lives regardless of how hard we’ve worked at it. We nestle ourselves within contentment only to breakdown within the confines of our boredom. We make plans and cancel plans and we want people around, but then we don’t want people around. We want love, but we also don’t feel deserving of love.
We think we know what we want when, in fact, we truly don’t. We think we know what will make us happy, referencing a six year old with a passion for something and assuming that’s our path. That, if we achieve that dream, we will have the ultimate. The ultimate what, we don’t know, but we pursue regardless.
Somewhere along our lives, we were taught that life is any number of things but an experience of the physical world. We were given these bodies to experience what it’s like to be a living, breathing human being. We forget that in the pursuit of better, fitter, happier, more, more, more. We forget that, within the hum of the pursuit of happiness that we think is owed to us, that we don’t truly know how to live.
In the past, I have used achievement as a means of warding off dissatisfaction. Always looking for a better carrot to dangle in front of my face, I’d raise it higher and higher. In college, I wanted to be a designer, so I created a freelance design business that supported me full-time after the first month and continued to do so for five years. I wanted to have a design business where people came to me for my specific style of art only to have my clients start using my business name as a verb. By the time I stopped doing design, I was being paid per site a number that, five years previous, would have made me weep (and could have been half my yearly income and I’d have been happy). Yet, each rung, each achievement, each notch in my belt, only instilled in me a deep dissatisfaction, a sort of pressure to achieve more. Once I got to the top of one summit, I wanted to climb to the next.
I have spent the past year systematically reframing my thoughts on what life is truly about. That, instead of the pressure that comes from dissatisfaction, I can reframe it to be, “If that’s possible, what else is possible?” Instead of collecting achievements that are hollow, I can collect experiences of the physical world. Instead of having my eye on a prize, my eye on a dream that I think, once realized, will make me happy, I can continue to unfold my life in ways I’m not expecting, so that I can experience a full range of emotions, rather than the monotonous hum of happiness.
Because, really, you don’t want to be happy. You think you do, but your actions will tell you a different story. And that’s okay. If you don’t want to be healthy all the time, fine. If you don’t want to be on a mission to save the world every single day, then so be it. If you don’t want to choose happiness today and your Highest Expression Of Yourself is to lay on the ground and cry about something insignificant and shallow and completely ridiculous, then you must. If you want to understand the human experience through listicles on BuzzFeed or Thought Catalog instead of reading about the psychological implications that X thing has on your brain in the New York Times, then so be it.
When did we all get into the business of not doing whatever the fuck we want to do? If you’re not harming anyone or knowingly hurting someone, then why not? Why are we all trying to achieve this weird state of perfection as happy, healthy, well-adjusted, never-a-bad-day, never-a-bad-word-spoken, never ever think anything other than positive, human beings?
We say perfection doesn’t exist, yet we all strive for it. Is that the point? To get to almost perfection by the time we die? I say we all take a stab at what feels good to us, what we want to do in this moment, how we feel , whether that’s happy, sad, grief-stricken, frustrated, annoyed, whatever. And, instead of trying to find an answer on how to fix ourselves – this compulsive self-developmental generation that we are – we just insist on fixing the part of ourselves that says we are broken.
We are fallible human beings and we are not owed anything. We are here to experience everything life has available for us. Some are given more privilege than others, more opportunity, just by a matter of birthright. And, no matter where you land on that spectrum, you can experience what life is about. That’s the point of all of this that gets buried underneath the achievements of the world, the same achievements we think marks the quality of a life. But, you know what is the kicker? You’re the only one that can determine whether you have lived a life well-lived. You are the beginning and the end of that qualifier. So, if you have one goal to live by, one achievement you must keep dangling above you, it should be this: live your life based on your own metrics of a life well-lived and let every day be an adventure in understanding more of that experience.