Happiness Is... Probably Not Defined in this Blog Post

by - Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ok, so I have been thinking a lot about happiness and whether it is a wise goal lately, partially because I am watching a few friends and a cousin really question what it is that will make them happy (those damn 20's, this is why we are all the worst!), and partially because other than weddings, workouts, and recipes, inspirational quotes about happiness/ how to live your life dominate pinterest, and some of what goes up there is just stupid. What I find most disturbing/ annoying is how many of them are based on other people's people's opinion ("be the kind of person that when someone says something bad about you, no one would believe it"- why is this good? Why would you want to be that saintly? I would rather they never speak of me at all, but I hope I am interesting enough that someone would have something bad to say). 

I think we all might enjoy our 20's a lot more if we took our neurosis and boundless energy for self-reflection and applied them to taking care of other people. This is not really a bitchy complaint about everyone else. It's a bitchy complaint about myself, which of course only perpetuates the whole cycle that I am complaining about. 

I wonder a lot whether happiness is even a wise goal, since from what I can tell it is primarily supposed to be the effect of consumption. Like you go to Disneyland and you will get to be happy. Or buy the car or the phone or whatever. This is part of my larger concern that as human beings in late capitalism we are all much more useful for consuming than we are for our labor or actions. Happiness becomes like the signal that you are consuming effectively. Like you can tell by your level of happiness whether you are doing a good enough job at getting what you want. This also makes me nervous because if you take Pinterest's word on it, we all want pretty much exactly the same things, so this carries the danger of being a competition for people who are into that kind of thing. I am not immune to this by any means, and I do think there are certain things that really do make life happier. Some technology really does make my life happier, because I live so far away- people can rail on facebook, but I like getting up in the morning and seeing what my Aunt Becky is doing today. That genuinely brings me joy.

from www.flickr.com/photos/sindiwithans/4670959820/
So in my very limited experience and wisdom, happiness ends up being driven by the people (and things) we love, and that love is always an action and a choice. It takes work, creativity, thought, and effort and like anything else that is worth doing, it is not always comfortable and fun and happy. From what I can tell, the relationships that matter most never let you forget that love is an action not an easily accessed feeling (even though it can be that too). I guess that is why I would define the happiness worth having as being the kind you give away, because making someone else happy is so much more powerful and has significantly more staying power than anything I want right now. I think that is another weird side effect of your 20's, you don't totally belong anywhere, so it is harder to locate where that responsibility and citizenship come into play, but I truly believe that you have to pull yourself back into those relationships, or places, or causes, even if it is somewhere new, because it is what makes life mean something.

from thefeministmystique.blogspot.com/2012_07_01_archive.html

To me, this is the hardest part. Even though I am happy in my little life here, I have had so much trouble figuring out how to make myself useful in California. In a sea of A personalities, big brains, and big ambitions, everyone seems to constantly be subtextually saying that they have it all under control and they don't need your help. I imagine being back at home helping at the Barrow or joining city band, but my current challenge for myself is figuring out more ways to make myself useful here, to find the spaces to fill with kindness here. I can't just wait until everything I want in my life is worked out to be generous to others, because the truth is, I already have it really good. So, these are my thoughts on happiness- I am not sure it is the name I would give to the thing I am searching for long term in my life, and I am pretty sure it is always a side effect of other things, and is not in itself always a worthwhile goal. Basically, we should all just get over ourselves and try to do as much as we can for each other.  This is my wisdom for the day. Maybe I will set it against a picture of a sunset and see how it spreads on Pinterest!

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