I enjoy driving to and from work. It’s an hour out of every day when I can not and should not be doing anything else. I’ve grown to love moments where I have no option of being anywhere but that place in that time even if it sucks. When I’m at home on my computer, aware of all the things I can and should be doing yet I allow myself to sit and do this instead, I start to resent myself. I often feel stuck in existential dread caused by constantly looking forward to things that aren’t guaranteed. I can’t wait until the day I have that perfect job. I don’t know what it is yet but God, I just know I’ll be happy then. I can’t wait until I have my own home. You know, the one in the mountains with gigantic French doors. Or I can’t wait until I’ve found the one; the one who makes it all make sense. The guy who will make me thankful for the nights I missed out on, the trips I didn’t take, or the people I never met because it was all leading up to him. Yeah, I’ll be happy then. And my kids – the two boys and the girl. Blonde, probably. Smarter than their mother but as handsome as their father. They’ll bring that ultimate happiness into my life that everyone goes on about. Right?
Happiness. What the hell is happiness, anyway? Has anyone made it there and felt like yep, this is it? I am farther on the cynical side than most but I know a lot of happy people. I have a handful of families in mind with the perfect job, the gigantic doors, the handsome husband and impressive children. They really do look happy, too. Most of them even get their Christmas cards mailed out in time. Do I envy them? Of course I do. Is their experience any more human than mine? Not gonna lie, sometimes I believe I’m having a much more human experience than they are. I know you want to know why so I’ll tell you why.
Every person on this greenish Earth who looks happy online or at the store or at family dinner, they are comfortable putting on a smile and finding the silver linings of what is probably a significantly flawed life. I, too, enjoy strolling on the bright side when it’s appropriate. On the other hand, I appreciate being sad down into the depths of my soul. We are in the midst of one of the longest winters I can remember and my seasonal depression has been holding me underwater for weeks. There have been times where I felt tempted to thrash, to struggle, to claw at the surface and gasp for air. For the most part, however, I have enjoyed learning to swim. Not holding my breath. Swimming. Because sadness, too, is part of the human experience and who am I to rob myself of that? I am writing this to remind myself – and you, anonymous reader – that despite what everyone says about spending your life seeking joy, there is nothing wrong about being sad. I’m not suggesting you, or I, wallow in it and sink into an irreparable depressive state. But get comfortable in it, because odds are we will never find the endless fountain of happiness that everyone is looking for – the one spewing out rainbows and perfect spouses and smart babies and big French doors.
I felt incredibly sad today for no reason other than the fact that I am not in love with my life at the moment. That’s totally okay with me because I am a realist. I had this fleeting thought that I cannot explain in a way that won’t concern my loved ones but I’ll try. An internal dialogue flashed in and out of my brain before I could really pick out who was me and who was the other. It went like this:
– Someday you are going to die.
Profound, I know. The feelings that followed this thought were deep sadness mixed with hot adrenaline. How tragic that we’re all dying right now but how exciting that we’re all literally dying right now and there’s nothing we can do about it? I suppose that’s another reason why I enjoy my commute to work. I’m on the freeway surrounded by hundreds of fellow coffee addicts, honking and presumably already looking forward to the end of the day and there’s nothing we can do about that other than to just drive. We turn on a podcast or music and pump our veins full of more caffeine and for that half hour commute, we simply exist. And some of us are happy. Some of us are sad. Others are going through the motions. But we’re all experiencing the same moment of inbetweenness.
We live in a world where we’re told if you’re not happy, you’re doing something wrong. You haven’t manifested your dream life?! Join my pyramid scheme! Quit your job! Be your own boss! Try this new diet! Start a new workout regimen! Literally change everything about yourself! I’m not a genius but I’m telling you that it’s bullshit and we’re all living in different realities. And yes I’m cynical but I don’t understand why we have to pretend to be so happy all the time. I’ve spent more time stressed about why my life isn’t perfect when I could’ve been honing my craft of using my melancholy as a tool. Sadness grows art. Mourning grows love. Heartbreak grows understanding. Regret grows character. And happiness? In my experience, happiness sits still. You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re doing just fine. Stop looking for happiness for a moment and let whatever it is that you’re feeling spread throughout your entire body and appreciate being a complex human being. (And if it gets too dark to find any light on your own, ask for help. Sometimes I can’t find the light switch by myself, either.)