I’ve been thinking a great deal about the nature of happiness lately – what it takes to make myself happy, versus the pursuit of happiness I see in those around me.
I recently learned of an acquaintance of mine who left her med school boyfriend because she wanted to eventually marry a man who made a larger salary. (She ended up leaving him for an i-banker. Of course.) Her reasoning is that she intends on working for two or so years, but knows that she will be a housewife in the end. Now, there are loads of things that could be said on the subject – the complacency of it all, the fact that she probably worked very hard at Dartmouth for four years to no occupational avail, hell – one could even argue on the lack of authentic personhood. (Would that be mean?) But the important thing to note is that this, despite my personal inabilities to understand her reasoning, this is what will make her happy.
I thought of this scenario once again when I was scrolling on my newsfeed earlier tonight and I saw that an old high school friend who had been attending community college for the past two years had been accepted to a state university located in sleepy, suburban Orange County. Her status was followed by the usual congratulatory wishes and words of encouragement, and I felt happy for her. But the news left a somewhat displaced taste in my mouth. And even now, when I try to explain it, I can’t put my finger on it. The closest I can get is that I was both upset and disappointed by my own inability to feel genuine happiness for her. Her excitement just wasn’t something I could relate to –– and no, it genuinely was not because of any social hierarchy or academic rankings. (I promise you that I haven’t gone that off the deep end.) More specifically, I felt a little strange because something that made someone else so happy failed to even signal a little bell to me.
When thinking of these two friends and how their scenarios are linked, I’m astonished at the impossibly messy array of the things we celebrate in life and what makes us happy. For the first person, being a housewife is what will make her happy. For the second, it is going to a university set in sleepy, suburban, Republican Orange County. My point here isn’t that these two friends are celebrating the wrong things – in fact, their priorities and “happiness triggers” are solely theirs to determine. And I’m sure that when people examine my own aspirations, some of them must scoff at how ridiculous they must sound.
But when I look at others’ pursuits followed by their celebrations, it makes me question if I demand too much of life. Is it ridiculous that I dream/plan/intend to make X million dollars a year, own vast amounts of real estate along with other assets, and acquire power above it all as the next Sheryl Sandberg? Maybe so.
But then when I ask myself if I demand too much, this is always followed by the self-reminder that I don’t demand enough. I’ve got to dream big as I’m sure Sandberg did, and I have to recognize what makes others happy, sad, proud, elated, terrified, burdened, etc. will not have the same effects on me.
I hold a rather clear picture of what it is I want my future to look like. And I think one crucial step to realizing how to get there has been identifying my strengths along with my weaknesses. I’ve focused on my weaknesses for a very long time, and it’s time that I embrace my strengths. I just have to hone in on these passions, talents, goals, and aspirations. I know one day they’ll come true. The desire to succeed, as much as I want to breathe, must still be developed. But the bud of desire and drive is there. I know it because I can taste it. And I can’t wait for the rest to sprout.
I will succeed.
I will succeed.
I will, most definitely, give all of my all to succeed.