The Pursuit of Happiness
This blog post isn't an essay discussing the Will Smith film (for starters, I haven't seen it). Nor is this a meditation on the US Declaration of Independence.
I apologise if you're disappointed.
Instead, I want to talk about happiness. It's been a pretty elusive emotion over the last 12 months. And when it has shown it's face on a sunny afternoon or at a cancelled Zoom quiz, it's been mixed with guilt.
How can you be happy with over 120,000 dead? How can you be happy in an economic collapse? How can you be happy when so many others are not?
I'm no expert on happiness. I'm just a chick with a website and a few minutes to spare. But I think we had an unhealthy relationship with happiness even before this pandemic. We've been conditioned to accept that work is hard and pleasure is frivolous. But I can't help but reject this.
I admit that I've frittered away one too many hours on YouTube and The Sims, and I've never had a job that didn't involve some hard work. But I choose to pursue a life that focuses on my happiness first.
"But that's not sensible!" I hear you wail at your screen. "That's selfish! That's impractical! You can worry about that when you retire!"
Here's the thing.
I don't want to wait. Why wait for retirement when I could be hit by a bus tomorrow? Why wait until I'm old to allow myself to enjoy my life? I know I personally don't derive much pleasure from material wealth, so it's not like I need to save up.
As for selfishness, happiness doesn't have to be hedonistic. You can pursue the things that give you joy and still be empathetic, caring or altruistic. This false equivalence only serves to prioritise other's happiness at the expense of our own. And if you neglect your own joy, can you truly lift up others?
Now onto being sensible. This is tough to unpack because a lot of the things that make us happy may not be 'sensible'. Wanting to travel the world, or work freelance, or play video-games isn't 'sensible'.
Working primarily for myself on projects I'm excited by, making my own schedule and having autonomy over my working life make me happy (which, arguably, requires more work). Choosing temporary work over long term financial security isn't 'sensible'. It isn't prudent or cautious. But I'm okay with that.
Obviously I live in a society, so I can't just bum about, throwing myself into financial turmoil and praying it'll all come out in the wash. So what's the solution?
I can make calculated risks for my less-than-sensible choices. I can weigh up how much happiness future me stands to gain from my present decisions. Unlike being sensible, being a responsible adult doesn't me leaving happiness by the wayside. It allows you to include happiness in your life in a way that ensures your needs are met.
30% of a human life is spent working. That's 24 years based on life expectancy in the UK. I'd rather spend those 24 years doing something that gives me more than it takes. And if that means not being sensible and settling with being responsible, than so be it.
As the old saying goes: "that's adulting!"