How To Be Perfectly Unhappy
Not mine, originally written by Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal, https://theoatmeal.com/comics/unhappy.
I am not a happy person.
When I tell people this, they infer I am unhappy.
They assume my status is binary:
either I’m a joyous triumph, or I’m a miserable wretch.
They recognize no spectrum, only two states of being: happy and unhappy.
But I’ve never felt “happy”.
I’ve felt joy. I’ve felt bliss.
But those feelings are ephemeral. Being “happy” requires permanence.
It implies you completed all the prerequisites.
And now you get to sit atop your giant pile of happy, forever.
It implies you won. You beat the end boss. You made it.
You’re a triumph. You’re incredible. You’re whole.
When I disparage this idea of happiness, the counter argument is always the same.
“Oh, I know! It’s all about the journey.
(Cliches are the key to happiness.)
But that’s not it, either.
The conversation about “the journey” is always coupled with the idea that journey is a joyous one, rich with smiles and fun and laughter.
Also, journeys require endpoints, otherwise you’re not Frodo, you’re just a homeless guy wandering around with stolen jewelry.
The problem with “happy” is a lot like the problem with Pluto. Several years ago, Pluto lost its designation as a planet, which caused a lot of uproar.
(“It’s nice to finally meet another planet!” “Likewise, you inferior space testicle!“)
But Pluto itself was never the problem. It’s out definition of “planet” that was the problem. “Planet” comes from a Greek word, meaning “wanderer”, and was used to describe bodies that move in the sky against a fixed background of stars.
It was a vague way of describing a specific thing.
Does a planet move in a fixed orbit around the sun?
Does it clear a path within that orbit?
Does it have moons?
Does it have to be a certain size?
These were the questions that arose when we clarified our definition of “planet”. These were the smart questions that got Pluto downgraded.
Pluto is no longer a planet because our definition of planet wasn’t very good.
I’m not “happy” because our definition of happy isn’t very good.
It’s a monochromatic word used to describe a rich, painful spectrum of human feeling. Our sense of happiness is so brittle, it can be destroyed simply by asking whether or not.
“Hello, strange creature! What are you doing?”
“Well, I take these Blorks, and I plug them into the Klall, and if I ararnge them in a certain way, they all start lighting up.”
“How long have you been doing this?”
“My entire life.”
“Does it make you Glorkappy?”
“Yeah, Glorkappy. It’s when you generally feel good all the time. You smile a lot because you’re fulfilled.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I just like Slagnacking. Sometimes my arms hurt from lifting these, and sometimes I get frustrated. But I find it meaningful. I guess I’m UnGlorakappy.”
“That’s too bad. It really is beautiful, though.”
Maybe I’m just built differently.
Maybe I was born anxious and angry and this is how I find peace with the universe.
Maybe I truly am miserable, and everyone else is feeling everything I’m not.
Or maybe they’re all full of shit.
It’s irrelevant. Because I’m not happy, and I don’t pretend to be.
Instead, I’m busy. I’m interested. I’m fascinated.
I do things that are meaningful to me, even if they don’t make me “happy”.
I run. I run fifty miles at a time. I run over mountains until my toenails fall off. I run until my feet bleed and my bones scream.
I read. I read long, complicated books about very smart things. And I read short, silly books about very stupid things. I read until their stories are more fascinating to me than the people actually around me.
I work. I work for twelve hours a day. I work until I can’t think straight and I forget to feed myself light outside dims a tired glow. I work until I smell weird.
When I do these things, I’m not smiling or beaming with joy. I’m not happy. In truth, when I do these things, I’m often suffering.
But I do them because I find them meaningful. I find them compelling.
I do these things because I want to be tormented and challenged and interested.
I want to build things, and then break them.
I want to be busy and beautiful brimming with ten thousand moving parts.
I want to hurt, so I can heal.
I’m not unhappy. I’m just busy. I’m interested.
And that’s okay.