Happiness Isn’t A Static Concept (So How Could Anything Else Be?)
I’m not very consistent.
Readers of The LITMO Life will know that this is true of me and everything. I’m not consistent about blogging, I’m not consistent about YouTubing, I’m not consistent about what I want to do for more than one moment in time.
Throughout the time period that I would consider my “adulthood,” I’ve been consistent about maybe four things at all times, without fail: my puppy, my baby sister, veganism, and working out. These are the things that I would consider “me” and the things I found most important.
Now, I’m adding a husband to that consistency list, but the rest is still the same.
And over the past few months (considering my last blog, this also isn’t a secret), I’ve caught some flack for changing my mind about marriage and been accused of being insincere about my relationship views in the past.
But here’s the thing: Although I know I’m not generally stable, neither is happiness.
Happiness isn’t a static block that sits still and waits for you to find it. It’s a constantly-moving target that shifts from month to month or week to week or even sometimes, day to day.
Happiness doesn’t stay exactly the same over a lifetime, so how could anything else? Unless, of course, you’ve specifically chosen to make something stay, but that’s not happiness, that’s a choice.
I realized, when I was defending myself to yet another person, discussing how I could both hate commitment and want to try it, that the things that have been consistent in my life have been because they were things I decided on. People and values that I decided to maintain consistency with. Ideals that I know are going to be timelessly important to me.
So, what was the list again?
My puppy: My best friend in the whole world and a life for whom I chose to take responsibility.
My baby sister: My other best friend in the world and someone seven years younger that I knew I could be there for.
Veganism: Not a food choice or a lifestyle choice, but a moral decision that my taste buds aren’t more important than the lives of animals.
Working out: The one thing that gives me sanity, always, in every circumstance no matter what.
(And now) Husband: Like my puppy and my sister, this is a human that I not only love, but that I’ve decided to love every day forever. This is a human whose relationship with me won’t be subject to the whims and flights of *feelings*, it’ll instead be guided by the decision to get up and love every single day.
These are all things that nourish my soul, but they are also things I decided that I was going to commit to and love and give importance to forever. Veganism and working out of course make me happy, but they are so much more than that. They are commitments I made to myself. Similarly, my puppy and baby sister and husband of course make me happy, but they are also people who I committed to love and be there for.
Some views outside of this list have remained consistent, too. Views that some would call “liberal” and views that I just call basic human decency: the view that women are equal to men, the view that everyone deserves the same right to love and marry, the view that racism is wrong.
But these are just views, they aren’t happiness.
The things that have remained consistent in my life are bigger than happiness, because happiness only matters sometimes. If I get happiness out of eating a steak, but a cow has to die for that, well then, as far as I’m concerned, my happiness doesn’t matter.
But for other things, chasing happiness is just perfect. For the things that don’t matter, the things that are subject to human whims, the things that are malleable — happiness is just fine to chase.
But that said, happiness is also a weird, elusive concept that runs from our grasp just as we find it.
One day, bouncing from state to state and meeting tons of new people every day made me happy. The next day, being home with close friends and comfort made me happy. Sometimes, eating chocolate and staying up late makes me happy. Some other times, getting up at 5 AM and eating raw vegetables all day makes me happy.
Who’s to fucking know when our happiness will change?
And who are we to judge when someone else’s happiness changes?
That’s part of the reason I’ve always craved novelty over stability. Because I knew things didn’t make me happy for longer than about five seconds and I liked constantly finding new ways to stimulate myself.
And so what if it changes in a way that we (or anyone else) couldn’t have expected?
One day, being single made me happy. And I thought I’d feel the way forever. But surprise, I’m young, and dumb, and who the fuck knows what’s coming. That’s not to say I think marriage is right for everyone, just that I changed my mind about what would make me happy.
The difference is, with marriage, I committed. So even if it doesn’t make me happy every minute of every day, I’m in it.
I’ve noticed that it’s not just me, though and that people seem to beat themselves up when they realize something they once loved is no longer making them happy. Whether it’s a runner that’s lost their stride or a chef who is starting to hate cooking, we sort of lose our minds and feel like we have to go through this whole period of redefining ourselves when we lose our happiness with something we once treasured.
And it sucks, because all self-discovery sucks.
But so what?
The important thing to remember is that happiness, even when you find it, won’t stay perfect that way forever.
It’ll change and grow and maybe, one day, disappear.
And then you’ll just have to go out on your next adventure and chase it down again.