Thomas Jefferson wrote, “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Of course he didn’t mean any of that shit on a universal level, the man owned a lot of slaves. I can’t say that I agree with Jefferson’s business or personal life, I’ve never been the type to appreciate slave-owners, but he may have been on to something with this idea at least.
Breaking it down
OK, “Life” and “Liberty” are relatively easy terms right. Let’s establish what I think it means anyway so we’re all on the same page.
- Life in this instance is – let me live, don’t try to kill me for no reason, don’t force your crap on me.
- Liberty – don’t enslave me of course; that’s my property, don’t touch it.
Happiness is open ended and very subjective, so your guy Jefferson went with the pursuit. Thus, the pursuit of happiness is given as an unalienable right, even though slavery continued and they stole a lot of shit from Native Americans. Hypocrisy in the Declaration of Independence aside, it’s too bad there isn’t an actual roadmap or guidebook for how to pursue happiness. Even if there were, the traveler would likely be pissed to learn that as soon as they arrive to happiness and the GPS voice chimes indicating the end of the route, happiness will already have relocated somewhere else altogether. Who doesn’t like a moving target?
What is happiness to you
The dictionary defines happiness as “the quality or state of being happy”. Somehow that doesn’t seem like a good enough answer for anyone so I asked a few friends this question and got a range of answers. Typically the responses were centered around money or doing an activity or activities with family and friends, real flowery stuff. My friend group is diverse though, so here are a few standouts:
- I don’t know, but getting head (oral sex) at least 5 times a week would make me happy
- Being able to exist freely as my authentic self
- Winning the Powerball and telling folks to kiss my ass
- Traveling the world with someone you love
- Fall makes me happy, and knowing that happiness is within
From the responses I received, it seems that people perceive happiness as the fleeting moment or the personal state of enlightenment. I would absolutely subject myself to a study to see if receiving head everyday made me happy, but I’m certain that it would not. I would enjoy winning the Powerball, but telling random people to kiss my ass isn’t a sentiment that I can get behind. Traveling the world is cool, but after about 2 weeks, I’m usually ready to be wherever home is. I’m sorry, but no matter how cool my travel buddy is or how amazing that oral sexologist is, I wouldn’t want to experience every single day or every place with them. That wouldn’t make ME happy.
I currently exist freely as my authentic self and I’ll tell you…it ain’t easy. However, this existence brings me joy despite being chronically misunderstood. The last response came from a good friend of mine, whose happiness journey I’ve seen much of. Fall and spring are my favorite seasons too no matter where I am. Summer and Winter are interchangeable depending on where I am. For example, Chicago…give me the summer time over the winter, but Las Vegas, I’ll take those 50 degree winter days over the scorchers in the summer every time. I attribute this to the joy of transformation. The eager anticipation of what warm weather brings, as well as the colorful transition to quiet in the fall.
The most difficult thing to do when you are not in a state of happy, is realize that controlling the feeling is a choice. Not so long ago but kinda long ago when my first adulthood girlfriend and I broke up, I realized I wasn’t happy. Not with the relationship or my job…I just wasn’t happy in general. So I began this soul searching endeavor to discover what happiness for me looked like. I decided to abstain from all sexual pleasure, and usage of foul language. I began reading all of the major religious texts, I started meditating and writing my thoughts down every day. I took time every day, rain or shine to find something enjoyable in simply existing in that day. After 11 months of this, I realized that for me, happiness wasn’t in religion, sexual release, or given to me by any other person. Happiness wasn’t simply doing things that make me happy for the moment either. Happiness was my approach to all things in life.
I pursued my happiness like a crazy person would. I don’t suggest it for everyone, it’s easy to fall of going cold turkey like that if you aren’t all in committed at once. I eliminated everything that seemed like a distraction to my journey and didn’t waver for nearly a year. It was easier to do since I had no kids, I lived in a dorm and even before my journey I was different, but cool.
The reasonable person’s method would be making many micro adjustments over time until you achieve happiness. If you wake up daily and think “I don’t feel like going to work”, redirect your thoughts to something more pleasant to you. If you’re always tired in the morning and you like to hit snooze for 30 minutes….eliminate the snoozing and set the alarm for 30 minutes later or get up on the first one. Greg, gets on your nerves at the job, with all of that small talk, mentally give yourself a southern grandma’s voice and tell him “bless yo heart” because he’s too socially awkward to recognize this ain’t talk time. OK I’m good again.
We’ve all heard someone say “if I had a nickel for every time fill in the blank happened, I’d be rich”. Typically it’s a wild session of hyperbole because they’d probably have two or three dollars at best. Hyperbole aside, think of these micro adjustments of your mood and actions as the nickels, and your overall mental health as the fortune you’d build if you did them daily.
That said, happiness is an undefinable term, I am on my journey in happiness, but I can’t explain what it feels like or give you the metrics to know when you’re there as well. It’s a “you know when you know” sort of thing. Happy is observable, definable, but fleeting. Let me sexualize this. Happiness is like the female orgasm, absolutely achievable though many people seem to be incapable of making it happen. When you make it happen, you can tell because she will be changed in that moment and it will last with some aftershocks and she’ll be cool for the rest of the day. Show you right!
Happy is like what guys experience. It’s easy to get a response of happy with a good joke or a well timed fart for some. You laugh and for that moment, you have a receipt of your happy transaction. Whether the person that made you laugh is happy or unsatisfied matters not, you can leave a tip to get them closer to satisfied but for most of y’all that’s optional. Do better fellas!
That said, the things that make you happy in the moment are simply mile markers on this road trip to happiness. On this path you’ll encounter traffic, moronic drivers, traffic cams to slow you down and in some cases accidents…but all of these come with the pursuit. Anything worth having is worth working for. So before you look at this 2000 mile trip and say you’ll never make it, commit to 1 mile at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be closer to where you want to be than where you were.