When Happiness is Circumstantial

My happiness has always been circumstantial.  It has always been external. It has always been something that happened to me, instead of something I created.

Most notably, happiness has always equaled accomplishments.

And for reasons that aren’t important in this post, I learned at a very young age that accomplishing things is what made people like or love you.

So now I’ve got two things going against me:
1. Happiness is out of my control.
2. Happiness depends on what other people think about me.

Talk about some heavy shit for a kid.

And I’ve carried this philosophy (for better or for worse) through my entire life.

To this day, I struggle with making decisions because I need the input or permission of at least two people before doing so. To this day, I struggle with making decisions because unfailingly, those two peoples’ opinions will differ, forcing me to upset someone.

Usually I go with what’s expected of me. What will make the most people happy. What will make the least amount of waves. What will make me less of a burden on other people.

I have to tell you. This shit is exhausting.

So, growing up, I pushed myself to be the best. Be the best student, make a name for myself. Straight A’s, student body president, debate team, basketball, Spanish National Honor Society..the list goes on. Then, as I got older, those accomplishments changed, of course taking into account what was expected of me:

  • Graduate high school.
  • Go to college.
  • Get a job.
  • Meet a nice boy.
  • Marry said boy.
  • Have children.

The philosophy of “I’ll be happy when…”

And then these things came and went and I still wasn’t happy, not at my core. It was all external. All circumstantial. And here’s the problem with, “I’ll be happy when..” The truth is, it never comes. It’s a moving target. It’s always just out of reach. “I’ll be happy when” is a life sentence of unhappiness and unfulfillment.

My entire life, I’ve felt a void. A void I can’t name. A void I can’t fill. A problem I can’t solve.

And for the last year, I’ve become increasingly interested in the concept and pursuit of happiness.

If happiness isn’t the things that happen to me, then what is it?

I haven’t figured it out yet. I can tell you all the things it’s NOT.

It’s not getting approval.
It’s not being liked.
It’s not finding a man.
It’s not making X amount of money.
It’s not finally losing the weight.
It’s not having stuff.
It’s not the perfect marriage, 2.3 kids, and a house with a white picket fence.

If it’s not these things, then what is it?

Is it fleeting moments of joy that add up to a happy life? Is that the best we can hope for?

Is it a mindset? That you’ll be happy no matter what’s going on in your life? Then isn’t that a method of avoiding problems?

I am really curious to know your feedback.

The best I can figure it so far is that finding happiness might be finding purpose in my life, learning to love myself, and perhaps most importantly, forgiving myself and letting go.

All of these things are so much easier said than done. There’s no roadmap for this. I love a good game plan. I love steps to follow. But this journey, is anything BUT. I am in uncharted territory. I don’t know how to figure it out. I am putting in work – researching, working through past traumas with my therapist, working to shift my perspective. But it still feels so out of reach right now.

I will keep trying. I will die trying before I die with my emotions being slave to the things that happen around me.


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