What Does Happy Look Like?

Featured Image: The first flowers of spring— daffodils— are a sure sign that seasonal depression is over!

Title lyrics: “Are We Having Any Fun?” by Sir Sly

As someone who had clinical depression for an entire decade and has only just experienced some modicum of happiness in the last two years (yes I literally overcame depression just in time for a pandemic)– “happiness” is not what I expected it to be. 

I prayed and prayed and prayed in those years just to be happy, but I never really defined it for myself. I just wanted to be not-miserable. I just wanted to be able to get out of bed.

When I came out of my ten-year slump, I wasn’t “happy”; I was just…fine. At first, I thought I had gone into a manic phase because all of a sudden I could do things. I cleaned my room regularly. I no longer slept to avoid life. I even started running for god’s sake. But I still did not consider myself “happy”.

I used to base happiness on my goals: I’ll be happy when I graduate, or get a boyfriend, or get a job. But even when those things happened (well, sans the boyfriend), I still wasn’t happy. In fact, when I graduated college, I briefly got more depressed.

Right now my happiness seems to be waiting on three things: vaccination (first shot April 26th!), moving into my apartment (June 1st!), and getting my pet rats (as soon as I’m settled in my apartment). I know I shouldn’t base my happiness off of such things, but I do think that they will bring me immense joy. But I fear that it will not be long-lasting. 

Can happiness even be long-lasting? 

My sadness used to be long-lasting, with small spurts of contentment. Does happiness work in the same way? Or is happiness being “just fine”? And if so, why does “just fine” not feel like enough for me? Why am I constantly trying to define what happiness should look like? 

I think a part of my frustration has to do with something I’ve written about before— the 40-hour workweek. Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly fortunate and thankful to have the job I have now. I think it will eventually get me my “dream job” and it has also given me the ability to move out, which in turn is giving me the ability to have pet rats. That all equals happiness, right? Right??

A recent study by Cambridge University found that of the 5,000 people they surveyed, the most unhappy people were those who lost their jobs during the pandemic, followed by those who worked five days a week. The happiest among them only worked one or two days a week. This isn’t surprising, of course, but in a society where you need to work 40 hours to put a roof over your head and food on your plate, what are you supposed to do?

I just don’t think happiness is real, or at least is not definable and not absolute, because every emotion is temporary. So I think all we can do is try to be not-miserable, and spend our time doing things that give us little doses of happiness, and all those doses of happiness will add up and eventually outweigh the not-happiness.

So go experience things. Create something, even if it kind of sucks. Volunteer in your community. Take a random trip to somewhere you’ve never been, even if it’s just somewhere in your own state. Try a new restaurant, even if you’re not into the type of food they serve. See a friend you don’t talk to as much anymore. Be impulsive; Say yes to as much as you can because you might find your new favorite thing.

And I know depression can make some of these things hard to do, and toxic positivity is not going to help, but not everything has to be extravagant. Try wearing your favorite pair of underwear and socks on a Monday. Buy a really nice pen to use at work. Send a friend a meme you’ve had saved in your photo library for a while (Baskin if you’re reading this I have one for you that I keep meaning to send you).

As I said in my last post: do whatever the fuck you want, because happiness isn’t real, neither is time, or not-backed-by-gold money, or birds, or our visual perception of colors. Everything is temporary, including your life, so live it.

Bonus Content:

The meme I’ve had saved for Baskin for like weeks but for some reason haven’t sent yet:

2 thoughts on “What Does Happy Look Like?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s