In our society, American society, we are unhappy, but not because happiness is impossible.
Rather we are unhappy because happiness doesn’t matter. It is not the goal. Far from it.
As children, adults ask us what we want to be only to pat us on the head when we say fireman, astronaut, actor, president.
Their touch isn’t because they believe our dreams to be impossible, they just know America strayed from the path of dreams. Somewhere along the way it transformed into a culture of crushing them. Secretly, those adults once held similar hopes for the future, only to have them beaten down with a loaded mallet of judgement that became “reality.”
More often than not they never did what made them happy, truly happy. So why should we?
You see, as our parents grew older, just as we do too, the unspoken hope is for the next generation to be happy. However, happy is a word more often found on cards than in hearts: Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, Happy Thanksgiving.
Sadly, what people hope and what people say are two different things. Instead, we are told go to college, get a degree in “something good,” and finally get a well paying job. A job that guarantees a worry- and struggle-free life.
Most of us try. We make college happen at the cost of sinkhole loans; we get that degree in “something” but we choke on our words before we ever call it “good;” and the job comes with a pay that barely keeps the electricity on.
The sinkhole begins to swallow our past, present, and eventually our futures. All this to a chorus of “good for yous” and we should be happy.
But are we?
The struggle and the worry are sucked into the expanding void of stress, at the bottom of which rest thousands of unpaid dollars in debt. It doubles and triples so bills get paid, but in this modern day of extinct overtime many of us stumble into second and third jobs who don’t use our skills or listen to our needs. So much for that degree.
The system grinds and turns until we’re left with the dust of ourselves drifting in the wind, barely staying together. Then someone asks: “Are you happy?”
The question begs further pause, but the quicksand does not cease in the business of pulling us, and everything we know under. We did everything right: school, degree, job. Where did it all go wrong?
The reasons for our unhappiness do not stem from us alone. Its roots are deep in many facets of this culture we call American, underneath which still lies the blurred illusion of the American Dream—long since distorted by fads and trends, by price tags and beauty promises, by fail-proof relationship advice and better body tips. We are left with dregs and call them “happiness.”
We don’t know to do otherwise.
This nine to five world often leaves us with little of who we our for ourselves, little time to reflect on what matters. With measly bonuses, limited vacation, and food short of intoxicating the list of distractions stretches into eternity until we are left on the doorstep of death. Wondering one last time: where did it all go wrong?
That is true, unless someone interrupts our little world long enough to genuinely ask what makes us happy, and then “Why aren’t you doing it?”
Thank you to everyone that has interrupted my world. I am truly better off, and happier because of it.
“Knowledge of the heart gives us the chance to know others, not as statistical data or lifeless puppets but as vibrant beings, full of hopes and dreams.” Pierro Ferrucci, The Power of Kindness
Until next time!