I get the strangest messages sometimes. Mixed in among the thoughtful discussion, the encouragement, and the “me toos” is a small but steady flow of fear and anger.
Some people are very, very uncomfortable with my pursuit of happiness.
They have to tell me that no one is happy all the time. They have to tell me that life consists of unhappy moments. They have to tell me that it’s unrealistic to think that anyone can only be happy.
And when I hear their concerns I think: no shit.
I know that a happy life is made up of more than happy moments. I know that the human experience is composed of joy, calm, grief, fear, pain, and anger. And I wholeheartedly believe in embracing all of those emotions, because running from them or stuffing them only ensures your life will be tainted by them until you finally face them. I also know firsthand that sometimes we can’t just choose happiness, because things like depression and anxiety cannot be fixed with gratitude practices.
But still, I pursue happiness.
And I do it because I know what happiness means to me and because I’m confident that my own definition of and journey towards happiness will not screw up anyone else’s.
My happiness cannot hurt them.
I’m not taking more than my fair of joy, and being too positive will not force someone else to pick up more cynicism.
I’m not insisting that anyone defines happiness the same way I do.
I’m not suggesting that anyone else is unhappy or not happy enough.
Do you feel happy? Great. Do you feel unhappy? You’re totally entitled to that, too. Do you want to talk about how to be happier and swap ideas and maybe learn from each other? That’s where I come in. And not a moment sooner. I have neither the desire nor the ability to convince someone that they should pursue happiness the way I do.
My personal pursuit of happiness is not a covert conversion campaign.
I wonder sometimes why one person’s journey can cause such an intense reaction in someone else – someone who is neither married to nor living with the journeyer. Why do people feel the need to temper someone else’s optimism or warn a stranger about the dangers of seeking out joy?
I suspect it has something to do with fear. Perhaps they’re afraid that one person traveling a different path is saying that their way is wrong. That’s not necessarily the case, of course, but maybe that’s the story they tell themselves.
Or maybe they’re afraid that a person they care about will wander too far down an unfamiliar road and the nature of the relationship will be changed. That’s entirely possible; it happens a lot when people are growing in different directions. But insisting that the happiness seeker is wrong or that they are telling you that you are wrong will only hasten the separation and clutter your memories with unnecessary regret. Let them be, and trust them to let you be until they don’t.
Let me attempt to be happy, I guess is what I’m saying.
And I promise to let you be whatever it is you want to be right now.
Perhaps they are concerned that I don’t deserve happiness. That, of course, is bullshit. We all deserve happiness, even those of us (all of us) who have hurt others in the past. We are all worthy of the second chances and the forgiveness life grants us. Even me. Even you. I’m not swallowing up happiness that’s due to someone else.
There’s more than enough happiness to go around.
Do people warn you to calm down, to be reasonable, to not get too excited? Do you catch whispers about how unfair it is that you’re not miserable?
I hope you know that it’s not about you.
Maybe it’s fear, or maybe it’s insecurity, or maybe it’s a general distrust of change. Whatever is triggered in someone else is up to them to sort out. You aren’t responsible for how your pursuit of happiness makes other people feel.
Your happiness is harmless.
You’re not doing anything wrong by trying to build a happy life for yourself, and you have every right to define what that means on your own terms. In fact, I believe you have a responsibility to yourself and the world at large to respond if you feel the call to pursue happiness. I feel that ignoring your purpose in order to make someone else feel comfortable would cause you and them more harm than good eventually.
Do not ever doubt that you are worthy of happiness.
Do not abandon your pursuit because someone else is uncomfortable.
Keep listening to your heart. It will tell you that you deserve a happy life.