By: Aavani Raj
I think we all envision life as a journey. It's this quest to reach an end goal which will give you ultimate fulfillment. For a lot of people, including me, that end goal is happiness. What steps do I have to take to become happy? I have to work hard in school to get a job, and I have to work hard at my job to be successful. When I'm successful, I'll be happy. It's this feeling of pride, this sense of accomplishment that will make me believe I'm worthy. Worthy of the love of others around me, and especially worthy of my own love.
It's so easy to give in to self-pity and hate yourself. It gives you an excuse to be a bad person. I act like a bad person because I don't want other people to like me. Yet, I still crave external validation. And that just creates this weird paradox where I'm constantly miserable, because if people like me, I question why, and if they don't like me it just contributes to my self-loathing. And that's why happiness seems like this amazing goal that will take many years of planning and hard work to achieve. But that's not what happiness is. Happiness can't be your end goal in life, because life doesn't have an end goal. Life isn't a journey where you fulfill your destiny and achieve self-actualization. Life is just life. What we do determines what our future will be. Nothing is set in stone. There's no plan out there detailing everything that's going to happen in your life.
So if there's no fate and there's no end goal, what exactly is life? Well, I think life is about learning and growing, and some sort of fulfillment. Happiness isn't this tangible thing you achieve, it's just sometimes there, and sometimes it's not. And the more people like me think they will one day be happy, the less they think about trying to be happy now.
I saw a quote somewhere that said that cynics are disappointed idealists, and as someone who considers myself a little cynical, that's kind of true. You grow up expecting life to be one way, and when it's not, you put up these barriers to keep yourself at a distance from reality. You never take anything seriously as a sort of defense mechanism. Because once you do take something seriously, you're open to pain and disappointment. I once told my mom that whenever I have high expectations about something it turns out to be worse than I imagined, but whenever I have low expectations, it turns out to be better. My mom asked if the best thing was to have no expectations. And I said no, the best thing is to have low expectations so that you're never disappointed. And maybe that's what cynicism is. And maybe, in an attempt to connect these two trains of thought, happiness means ripping away all these barriers and expectations and just living a true, authentic life.
Happiness is simply satisfaction with life. No human being will always be happy. That's hard to admit to myself because I hate the feeling of being sad, but it's unavoidable. By happiness, I mean that you look at your life and you think, yeah, it's not so bad.