That’s it. I’m ready to punch something. But first I have a question.
Who the hell on this planet is striving for (or making their ultimate goal) happiness? Who?! And when did this become a commonly-accepted idea?
It’s in everything I read. Just now I began reading a Brain Pickings article, only to be met with the words, “In our ceaseless quest for self-improvement and relentless pursuit of happiness…”
Utterly lost. That’s what I am. Not once in my life have I thought to myself, “I just want to be happy.” Never once have I looked at my future or considered what’s important to me, my life, and summed it up with: “I want to be happy.” How could it even be considered an end-game?
It’s a side-effect, if anything. And it’s so ballistically arbitrary and unpredictable that attempting to harness choices and behavior to elicit it is ludicrous, if not flat-out Sisyphean.
It’s unbelievable to me that some people really have this idea as some sort of goal, or feel it an expectation in some capacity. And on top of that, it’s almost a bit pathetic. That’s what you want, really? You want an emotion? You aren’t looking for verbs? You don’t want to create, or inspire, or add, or experience, or grapple, or struggle, or learn, or reach, or break, or see? You care more about the product than the process? You want to feel the same thing, over and over? You want to be high on Dopamine for the rest of your life?
Am I being ridiculous? Am I wrong to think this is unbelievable?
Either this idea — that everyone wants to be happy — is being oversold, or I’m annoyed with everyone. I’m rarely annoyed with everyone, but I also rarely deal with everyone.
Today was ten years since I sat in a classroom, halfway through my first year as a teenager, and begged Mme Shannon (she was a troll) to not put the video in the VCR yet, because clearly that news report was important. “Mais…c’est…New York, et… le feu!” She told me to shut up, in English, and popped in a tape. I was angry because no one else had noticed what was on the TV. It wasn’t until the bell rang and I walked to my locker that I heard some boy shout, “Did you see the plane crash? Some plane crashed” to another kid down the hall. When I wandered into my next period, English, the TV was on, and twenty-some little bodies watched the second plane hit, but didn’t realize it wasn’t an instant replay of what had happened before. For some reason, nothing we were watching felt like real time. It felt like a movie. It felt like a movie trailer.
When people started falling through the air, someone in my class asked, “What’s all that stuff coming from the top?” and I said, “They jumping.” I have a memory that I’m not sure is real of a girl named Courtney saying God didn’t believe in suicide and that being the first thing to make me start crying. From the moment my French teacher ignored me to the second that girl said that, all I remember feeling was angry. Angry with everyone. An “everyone” I’d always felt completely removed from. An everyone I didn’t normally deal with.
A voice came on the intercom shortly after that, saying, “Teachers, please turn off all televisions and resume teaching.” I remember feeling connected to my teacher. I remember seeing his face while he sat at his desk, realizing that he was feeling what I was feeling in a classroom full of kids who had already hit the “resume.” button — if not for their lives, at least in their current conversations.
We were in the middle of a poetry unit in that English class, and my teacher ended the class by saying, “You can either do the assigned prompt on the syllabus, or you can write a poem about what happened today in New York.” And I went home that night and wrote a poem called “For Everything Is Waiting.”
I’d love it if I could end this positively, but I really can’t. The poem was better than a thirteen-year-old should have written, and I found out later I had been suspected, again, of plagiarism — something that had been happening to me since second grade and continued through college. The poem was about goddamn the attacks on New York, which had happened that day, and they still checked my work for plagiarism. Three English teachers sat me down in a room and talked to me about the poem briefly before one, tearfully, said I could go. Every one of my teachers said something to me about it; they must have emailed it to the whole faculty. I was angry. It was for me, and it was for my teacher who had been feeling the way I was. And he went and shared it with the goddamn world.
I rarely deal with people, especially “everyone,” but I gather I’m sort of tied to the rest of the Everyone, on this one. I doubt anyone truly wants happiness as much as they want to live, to hug their loved ones, to write good shit and not to be accused of anything, to prevent, to lament together, to fix, to overcome, to survive.