Happiness is subjective, but it’s revered as the ultimate goal. This was perpetuated in the 70’s when it seemed to become synonymous with impulse and self-gratification. Happiness is success. Happiness is an accomplishment. As John Lennon said: “Happy is what you should aspire to be when you grow up. If not, then you don’t understand life.”
Does anyone understand life? This piece is not meant to get that deep or theoretical. As I get older, I realize I know less and less about the meaning of life. But I would like to challenge the idea that happiness is the ultimate goal. I’ve been happy and I’ve been unhappy, and maybe you can argue that there are situations one can put themselves in which would trigger one more than the other. That may be true, but my fear is by focusing too much on needing to be happy, you never do anything that could potentially make you unhappy at times.
These are often the same experiences that make you compassionate, courageous, empowered, thoughtful, grounded, humbled, open-minded, or inspired. The moments that force you outside of your comfort zone, like signing up for things where you know no one, moving to places you’ve only seen on a map and fighting for something you believe in. This is by no means a recipe for happiness, but what I can promise is you will be better for it.
I’ve felt this way for a while, but let it just live inside of me. Who wants to be the chick questioning happiness, am I right? Then I came across Charlie Day, from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” giving a Commencement Speech at Merrimack College. In it he states: “Everything I’m truly proud of in this life has been a terrifying prospect to me. None of it comes easy. People will tell you to do what makes you happy, but all this has been hard work. And I’m not always happy. I don’t think you should just do what makes you happy. Do what makes you great.”
When I moved to New Orleans with no job and a grand in my bank account; when I started a new job at my company that I wasn’t completely qualified for; when I applied to graduate school out of pure faith I’d figure it out logistically and financially – I was terrified. I pledge to continue doing things that terrify me. I challenge you to do the same. I challenge you to aspire to be great when you grow up.