by The Writer
My Pursuit of Happiness
Failure + Shamelessness +Persistence = Happiness
Okay, so maybe my math doesn’t add up, but I never claimed algebra was my strength. Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, suggests “Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we wanted. In our society, we have a strong belief that synthetic happiness is of an inferior kind.” In his fantastic TEDTalk lecture, he investigates the ‘why’ of happiness. Happiness is this thing we’re all after, and it’s different for everyone (or so it seems), yet looking around most in pursuit o f this elusive thing will admit to not truly being happy.
Having defined my happiness as the achievement of the following (only a partial list); a supportive and understanding partner, a career as a writer, a nice place to live, good health and an abundance of financial resources, it seems achieving this goal should be easy. It’s a pretty standard summary of choices I’ve selected in various areas of my life. I’ve often imagined having all these things. My brain can conceptualize these things and experience what it would be like in my mind, and of course the ‘dream’ is nothing but complete happiness. But let’s say I achieve this attainable goal, is that natural or synthetic? More importantly, will my acquired happiness be constant? Into every life, no matter how good, a little rain must fall.
Pursuing one’s happiness isn’t easy. It’s damn near impossible, but to make a biblical reference, when Adam and Eve were simply given ‘paradise’, they inevitably lost it. Easy come, easy go, right? Perhaps…. Are we not mean to have happiness? Of course we are, but working for it, makes having it all the more better: You don’t know what you’ve had until its gone. And if you never had it to begin with, you’ll appreciate it more when you get it. Happiness seems more like a state of being that can comes in waves. Indeed there are ways to sustain it, but ultimately it cycles through much like the other emotions in our life. The pursuit of happiness is a choice to face the fear of failure. I’ve had countless failures in my pursuit. Examining my life, one would think I’m a glutton for punishment. Perhaps I am.
Career-wise I have failed with countless screenplays that are taking up space on my computer. Calculating the hours spent writing, editing, and re-writing these scripts would only serve to make me vomit, but at least I stepped up to bat. Even before I became a writer, I tried my hand at a few entrepreneurial endeavours that crashed and burned miserably. My dad still has a stack of my very first set of business cards tucked away somewhere. I smile every time I see them. I’ve had a slew of ‘survival jobs’ to ‘make ends meet’ and succeeded at becoming a customer service wizard. Customer service success doesn’t seem like it’s worth celebrating but, think of the last time you felt impressed by amazing customer service.
Having lived away from my family for years, I let a lot of close relationships wither and die due to a ‘failure to communicate’. Fortunately it was a skill that I could learn, and with it succeed at reconnecting in those important relationships. Also, I’ve had some amazing romantic relationships in which I failed at, but each time I learned something along the way to make the next one a little better. Sure, I still feel like a failure because ‘the one’ (or so I thought) left me. She didn’t know how to love me because she didn’t know how to love herself…. Or perhaps she was too in love with herself to love someone else… Who knows. After receiving a rejection notice stating ‘our love isn’t good enough’, the details don’t really matter. Punishing myself about ‘why’ slows down the momentum of the pursuit of happiness. However, my ‘sagely’ needs always want to know ‘why’ to understand things. Do I want closure? At this point, does it matter? Do I need it to make informed decisions about the course of my future happiness? Not only is accepting the unknown part of the equation, but I supposed getting used to failure is a prerequisite for a course in happiness.
Regrettably I foresee a host of failures in my future, only because I’m continually pursuing that which makes me happy. Life would be a lot easier with a frequent failure card, where the incentive is ‘you’re sixth failure isn’t as epic’! I suppose the best thing about being in my position now is that there’s a lot more room to move up than there is down. There is definitely a sense of freedom when you feel you’ve lost everything, because in the words of Mr. Durden, “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
So, is this new perspective on happiness manufactured or natural? If it is manufactured, is it inferior to the happiness I would have received had everything I attempted to do worked? Do you have an equation for happiness? Ponder those and let me know….
And for those crafty screenwriters who may be following along, yes the title of this post is out of sequence… Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some failures to write and some life-changing failures to live!