Why we’ll never truly be “happy” – and that’s okay

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The concept of “Happiness” is an evergreen concern. “Work-life balance,” “quiet quitting,” and “stress-free spaces” are terms born out of our desire to discover that elusive method that will grant us unbridled joy and satisfaction.

But what does it mean to be truly “happy”?

When I was in my teens, I always wanted money. I was chubby, socially inept, and laden with massive acne that crushed my self-confidence into fine powder. I was not “happy.”

I believed money would solve 99% of my problems because I could afford to go to the gym, buy nice clothes for a chance with a girl, or escape to a far-flung area to meditate and be alone.

Now that I’m adulting, I’ve achieved these. But having money also means having a job. And boy, work is hard. I create content until it gives me back pain, dried eyes, and self-loathing that I’ll never be as good as my peers and inspirations.

happy, <b> Why we&#8217;ll never truly be &#8220;happy&#8221; &#8211; and that&#8217;s okay </b>

As I approach my 30s, I wonder if I’ve kept pace. The comparisons to my friends are inevitable. How much are they earning? What will I brag about during our reunion when they pull up in their SUVs, with their wives and kids in tow?

I’m grown up, and yet, I am still not happy.

I then look to my parents, who are in their 50s. I wonder how it feels to be secure with yourself, never to worry about your next career step, a stable income, or your overall worth as a human being.

But then happiness doesn’t look like heart attack scares, nights in the ICU, and noticing that your breathing gets shallower doing things you’ve usually had no problems with before.

We are never truly “happy”

Or at least not in the ideal definition of the word. We define “happiness” as feeling “good” all the time, free from stress and insecurities, with our wants and needs granted with a snap of the finger.

I think this definition is fragile and fairytale-esque. I’ve never experienced “true” happiness, but I have felt passion and purpose.

When I create content for hours, I’m in a constant state of frustration and stress. When I see a 19-year-old go viral, I feel professional jealousy and existential dread. Keeping up with trends is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle; only the pieces change every 10 seconds.

In these moments, I am not happy.

But I am fascinated with the creative mind. I am interested in what makes good content tick. I love the thrill of shouting into the void to see if anyone can echo my stories.

Sometimes, there is none. But on the off-chance, the people saying they feel “seen” makes the stress worth it. Either way, I find meaning and purpose in my work, even if it’s also my source of torture.

happy, <b> Why we&#8217;ll never truly be &#8220;happy&#8221; &#8211; and that&#8217;s okay </b>

Or maybe we’re just cynical

Maybe pure happiness does exist. Someone out there has probably found every answer to life’s questions. They do not need a therapist’s help, a partner’s understanding, or the constant validation of their self-worth.

But for us mere mortals, life is a cycle of failures, middlings, and triumphs, with fleeting moments of joy and bliss.

So maybe it’s not about being “whole” or “stress-free,” but finding a reason to keep moving forward despite knowing we will never be. A breadwinner will always carry the burden of providing for their family. A creative is only as good as their latest work. Even self-care basics like eating right or exercising feel like a chore.

Stress, anxiety, pain – all of these are, and always will be, our life partners.

And yet, it is our love for another person or our craft that keeps us chugging along. To become better versions of ourselves. We are busy, inspired, challenged, and on our best days, fulfilled, albeit briefly.

These do not make us unhappy, but we are never truly happy either – and that’s okay.

 

This piece is heavily inspired by my fave comic artist, The Oatmeal, who explained this concept way better than I ever could.

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