So here’s the thing.
The last time I sat down and posted anything on here was a month and a half ago. In the grand scheme of things, a month and a half really isn’t that big a deal. I’d like to say that the last six weeks have been so fun-filled and have kept me so busy that I haven’t had much time for writing.
Yeah, I’d like to say that.
Without going into too much detail (‘cos the last time I did I got myself into all sorts of bother at work – damn me for having an opinion) I found myself in another work situation which was far from fun. In fact, it was so far from fun I found myself contemplating resignation. That’s still not out of the realm of possibilities, but for now I’m just biding my time. No need to cut my nose off to spite my face. Not yet, anyway.
As a result of said situation I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and thinking, none of which has proved particularly helpful or insightful. I have heard and read often over the last few weeks the phrase “Just do what makes you happy.”, and I have come to realise I have so much issue with it, I really do.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of happy is:
feeling or showing pleasure or contentment
Now the reason I have issue with that whole happy thing is because right now – and for a considerable amount of time – my life has been devoid of any pleasure or contentment. And as a result I just haven’t been… me. In fact, the overriding emotion has been anger more than anything else. That and wanting to hit things (mostly heads, or rather one particular head). Hard. With a baseball bat.
And I have come to realise that the reason I haven’t been happy is because I don’t know what makes me happy. Not any more. So when someone says “Just do what makes you happy.” I just wanna scream back at them:
“WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! TELL ME!”
When I was in my late twenties/early thirties I had this romantic notion that my happiness would be reliant upon a combination and balance of five things (in no particular order):
If I could attain all five of those I thought, all would be glorious with the world and unicorns and rainbows would abound. And for a while, miraculously, all five did happen and it was one of the best times of my life. Now whether it really was because of the combination of the five, or whether it was because it was simply (finally) my time, or whether it was because the stars aligned in one glorious astronomical conflagration, I can’t really say. But all I do know is that I was happy. I truly was.
It didn’t last very long – about two years – and then things just got… complicated. I was in another long-term relationship, this one meaning so much more to me than any that had gone before. I took a risk and decided I was going to go back to university to do my masters. Things were difficult, but they were relatively good. I had the support of my family and friends and things felt they were going my way again. But within the space of a year I was jobless, single and living with my dad. So I packed up and moved to Singapore for a couple of years. As one does.
I’ve been back from Singapore nearly two years now. I’ve somehow become quite estranged from my old friends, as if that two years away has wedged something between us – I am so (selfishly) stuck at the moment I can’t bring myself to be around others that have moved on with their lives. And I do sincerely apologise for that. I’m still single. I’m still living with my dad. And as for work, well let’s just say I have never, in twenty years of being in education, looked forward to a summer break more.
A while ago I had a conversation with a cousin of mine. She’s someone with whom I have always been very close to and despite what life throws our way we have always managed to be there for each other. We were reminiscing about our childhoods. I have such vivid memories of us being at each other’s homes, playing, being silly, having fun, being innocent with no worries, being happy. I told her I had never envisioned my life being the mess it was now, and with regret in her voice she agreed.
Now I know no-one envisions their life as anything but positive. We all have hopes and dreams and aspirations. But how many people truly live happy lives? And what is it exactly that makes someone happy? I realise that’s a totally subjective question – only we know what makes us happy in the end. But what if along the way one forgets or doesn’t know? What then?
I really cannot answer those questions. And for all the self-help books that line the shelves and all the new-age websites that exist on the Internet, and for all the religions and holy books that supposedly provide answers, I honestly don’t think anyone can. I do believe it comes from within but finding those inner resources is quite daunting.
I keep telling people that all I want to do is run away and find a tropical beach somewhere and sell coconuts. Or something. A little fantasy to hide the fact that all I really want to do is run away again. But I know that as fun as being a beach bum would be initially I’d soon get bored and find myself back at square one.
I keep coming back to the point that I just don’t know any more, and that worries me if I’m going to be honest. If I don’t know what makes me happy, how can I do anything about it? Aristotle said:
Happiness depends upon ourselves.
Which is all well and good, and I can see the truth in what he says. But what happens when the capacity to see inside oneself and utilise one’s inner resources just stops working? I’m going to be forty-two this year. According to Douglas Adams that number is the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Quite a bold claim as well as quite a disappointing answer for those who asked the question. Satirical comedy aside, I hope what I’m looking for presents itself soon because I don’t want to become one of those bitter forty-somethings full of regret and resentment and disappointment.
I want to be happy.
I want to be me again.
Is that really too much to ask for?