Will We Ever Be Happy?

Summer break so far has been incredibly depressing, considering that my great country America has been shooting itself repeatedly in the foot over the past couple of days. June 11, Christina Grimmie, a famous American singer and contestant on The Voice, died from being shot three times while she was signing post-concert autographs. Yesterday, at least 50 people died in a mass shooting in the Pulse, an Orlando gay nightclub. (See my post-post note for my thoughts on this.)

As for me, though, nothing’s directly happened to me at all. Immediately following last week’s graduation ceremony, I removed my cap and gown, retreated into my room, and essentially haven’t moved since.

I remember lots of actions. I remember giving a speech, shaking some hands, walking across a stage, taking pictures. I remember watching ex-classmates pose with an “I’M DONE!” chalkboard sign to post on Instagram, remember smiling a lot, hugging a lot. What I don’t remember is how I felt about all this, probably because I don’t think I felt anything at all.

Even though this absence of feeling is common for me (of course, there’s a threshold. I felt horrified at the recent shootings. Afraid, knowing that no one, no place was safe), it’s hard for me to explain. Or it’s hard to understand and even harder to deal with. When you’re sad, you cry or write bad poetry or complain (or, if you’re Brock Turner, sacrifice your beloved steak). When you’re happy, you continue doing whatever you’re doing to stay happy. But what do you do when you’re not sad and not happy and not anything?

I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I started watching comedy shows on YouTube. When I’m down, I love listening to comedians.  They never fail to depress me further.

What I mean is that they lure me in with the promise of spirit-lifting laughter and the realization that my short-term problems don’t matter while hurling me into the abyss of long-term nihilism and making me realize that nothing else matters, either. Comedians, the ones I enjoy, anyway, view the world realistically, speak honestly, and point out the truths and absurdities of the human condition, the senseless idiosyncrasies of which we think nothing. (It’s worth noting that 100% of my most admired comedians are clearly depressed.)

I’ve given a lot of thought to one of Jim Jefferies’ truths, in particular, and I’ll try to write the gist of it. He once said something along the lines of (but with a lot more swearing, probably) you never complete your dreams because even if you do complete them, you don’t just stop there, satisfied—you just add more and more up until you’re dead. We’re brought up on a culture of dreams, and when they don’t happen, we can’t cope.

This observation, obviously, still doesn’t address why I can’t seem to process emotion correctly, but it’s a possible explanation as to why I’ve been feeling off lately. Just one example of many: for the longest time, I wanted to get good grades to get into an Ivy League school. I got them. I wanted to be involved in lots of activities to get into an Ivy. I got involved. I wanted to get into some Ivies. I got into some.

The gratification was so fleeting. It had the sour taste of foreshadowing.

We’re all trying to make it in the world, but what happens if and when we get to that point? Does satisfaction, does happiness become even further out of reach? Comedians like Bo Burnham or Louis CK or Jim Jefferies who’ve actually “made it” don’t seem to be any happier for it.

Maybe it’s because we’re dreaming the wrong dreams or for the wrong reasons. I didn’t know what I wanted for my education, only what I thought I should want. Maybe Jefferies raised his standards for success—from going onstage for five minutes and making people laugh, to getting paid, to headlining, to becoming a movie star—because going bigger and bigger seemed the logical progression and not because he wanted it.

Defining your own happiness: that could be it.

That, or maybe I need to lower my standards. I’ve found that doing so usually solves most of my problems.


Post-post note: Look, I’m not trying to use these tragedies to push a political agenda or anything (besides, has that ever worked? It seems to me like, by now, many people are staunchly on their side of the gun control debate and won’t budge no matter what happens.) But as long as nothing is done to deter future shootings, as long as the lives of a 22-year-old singer chasing her dream and gay people seeking contentment can be ended so abruptly, maybe the pursuit of happiness really doesn’t mean much in the end at all.

Post-post-post note: Check out Tim Minchin and Bo Burnham! I’m obsessed with their shows.


16 thoughts on “Will We Ever Be Happy?

  1. Hang in there. I know what you mean about sometimes not feeling anything… and then I focus on how I’m not feeling anything and it makes me feel even worse. Sometimes the smallest things can push us back into being more in touch with our feelings (or feeling them at all). For me it was running past a fragrant, flowery bush last week that took me back to my childhood – it’s the same kind of bush we had in my parents’ backyard. For some reason just that scent sent me back and “woke up” my senses. Have your eyes open to those gems so that when you stumble across them, they can give you a little bit more light in your day. 🙂

    Also agree with your sentiments toward happiness. I read (or heard?) somewhere recently that the biggest contributing factor to happiness is to feel like we’re growing. Sometimes just finishing a book or cleaning my apartment makes me happy because I feel like I’m crossing something off a list (OK, I’m Type A and literally do have those things in my planner to cross off). Ever since I read/heard the bit about growth, if I find myself down I will do something – even if it’s small like scooping the litter box – and it helps a bit.

    Sorry for this super random ramble, but I just wanted to give you my two cents. You’re not alone in feeling a little funny 🙂 Just keep your eyes open for those gems!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the tips! I experience those special moments, too, and there are definitely times when I feel excited and happy. But, in general, I’ve found them to occur less often for me than for others I know.
      Type A? A kindred spirit! I live for that feeling of accomplishment–crossing things off a to-do list always gives me a little rush and motivation.
      No, don’t apologize! I appreciate rambles so much (they let me know what leaves the biggest impressions and that my writing is provoking thought). Thanks again for your insight!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nicole, this is beautiful. And honest. And everyone goes through it several times in their lives. Are you going on with your education? things will change. Career`? things will change. there’s a famous quote by Goethe “if I rest, I will rust.” Since there aren’t too many rusted humans out there, you will find a new goal. Hope prayer and love are all that count in life. Congratulations, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much; I was worried this post wouldn’t be as well-received because I wrote it more honestly/seriously! I am, indeed, going to college, and I am thrilled to know the prospects of rusting are quite unlikely. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations on your graduation and successes, Nicole! You have worked hard to get to this point. If you don’t mind indulging me for a moment, I would like to help you find an answer to your question. Happiness is fleeting for sure in this life. It is true that once we obtain that “thing” that we thought would make us happy, we find that while it was exciting for a bit, it wears off and we start looking for the next “thing”. Well, you and I were made for something more – something better. We were made to be with the one who created us – yes, God. Ultimately, the “thing” we seek is for someone to know us and love us unconditionally. God knows us better than we know ourselves because He made us. Even with all our flaws and weaknesses, He loves us completely and wants to shower us with that love. For our part, we need to talk to Him and allow Him to be a part of our lives. He promises a joy in our hearts that will carry us through to eternity. You can talk to Him right now and begin that journey if you have not already done so. Personally, I went from a sad, depressed, and mistrusting youth to someone with deep peace and joy. We – humanity – were made for love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you SO much for your kind words and for reading and commenting! My pleasure; I love it when readers are engaged with my writing and choose to share their thoughts. Every long comment–I promise I read all of them.
      I’m glad to hear that you’ve found purpose and solace through religion! You sound very happy with where life has taken you(:

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Deep thoughts, well written. I like Brian Regan as a comedian. Very funny, clean humor. As a word of encouragement many deep-thinkers have trouble processing emotions. It’s not weird just part of the package. Thanks for sharing from the heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I’ve heard of Brian Regan (because of his reputation for being clean, in fact) and will definitely check him out per your recommendation. Also, that’s great to hear and I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment!

      Like

  5. I was a high school teacher and administrator for most of my life. I can say this with much certainty –these are NOT the best years of your life. You’ll make the transition into college and your life will just get better and better as you get to have more control of what you do and do not want. Change is tough for everyone, but some more than others. this is your time of change and it can make you feel sad, especially insight of what we are seeing on the media every day. But it will get better and it will be more fun and you are young. Grab that ice-cream from that cat and devour it! And laughter is a wonderful remedy. Clare

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is so good to hear. Anything remotely related to the world beyond high school is a foreign concept to me, and it’s easy for me to retreat back into what is familiar to me.
      Wow, now that you mention it, cats are really selfish for not sharing their sundaes.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Very heartfelt post–Congrats on your graduation, Nicole. Since I’m WAY older than you, you’re not obliged to listen to me…but at 64, I’ve settled on “general contentment–interspersed with happy moments throughout the day/week”. I love John Candy movies–he makes me laugh, as long as I don’t get sidetracked by how sad I am that he’s no longer with us… (does this sound familiar at all?). Blessings on your week!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Again, thanks so much for reading/commenting and, most importantly, enjoying my posts! It means more than you’d know(: Focusing on the little things seems to be the consensus I’ve been getting from readers, so of course I’ll try it out! As for John Candy, I haven’t heard of him, but I will look him up.

      Like

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