Why I Have Given Up The Pursuit Of Happiness


“I have a long way to go before happy,” she told me after Christmas. Like happiness is an X on a map and every tragedy is essentially a gust of wind that throws us to the opposite end of the page – and life is the constant journey, scratching and clawing and fumbling our way back.

Is this the meaning of life? Reenacting Sisyphus, pushing our burdens uphill, fruitlessly hoping we’ll make it to the top, only to watch it all tumble back? Is the pursuit of happiness nothing more than the walk back down, counting our footsteps, calculating just how far we have to go until we’re happy again?

I’m sorry, Zeus, but I’m leaving my post. The quest for happiness is a misguided one and I have no interest in pushing the boulder anymore.

Some would be so naïve to say that I’ve left this journey because I am somehow already there. I don’t need to be Sisyphus if I’m already at the top, right? If you can check three or more things off the socially accepted list of accomplishments, then, congratulations, you have arrived at your destination. They point this out to me like I’m not already aware of my luck.

And I am lucky. Absurdly lucky. Even by First World standards, I know I’ve been given a life that I don’t deserve. I am lucky. Stupidly lucky. But not necessarily happy. At least not – especially not – all the time.

I’ve given up the quest for happiness because no one is happy all the time. One cannot hope to be happy all the time. Happiness is an emotion, one that will come and go, like sadness and anger and amusement and frustration. How exhausting life would be if we scrambled for a constant feeling of desperation the way we do for happiness. I do not want to scramble for happiness, eschewing all other emotions because they’re somehow harder to process. Happiness is not a destination; it’s a type of weather we experience while on the road.

I’m on a new quest: a quest for peace of mind. A quest to find an inner balance that can take the good, the bad, the melancholy, the tragic, the beautiful; take it in equally and see that the whole range of human emotions and experiences can’t necessarily be sectioned off in such neat categories. I’m on a quest to live in the present with my eyes wide open, thinking no less of myself if I am laughing or crying or sighing wearily.

I’m on a quest to connect with the rest of the world. As Bishop Desmond Tutu once said: I cannot be human on my own. I am on a quest to experience and give experiences. I want to take that step forward and be in the universe. I want to help others and maybe through kindness and charity and providing a moment of happiness for others, I find meaning and satisfaction and quite possibly a moment or two of happiness for myself.

I’m in the pursuit of life as music. Happiness is one note, striking sharp or flat and not much more. I want to experience and appreciate life the way I appreciate and experience music, with the crescendos and decrescendos, the high notes and the low notes, the brief cacophony before the symphony unfolds. How foolhardy would it be to pursue a note – one note – and demand that it be played indefinitely?

I’ve given up the pursuit of happiness for the same reason I’m not in the pursuit of the C-sharp. It doesn’t matter if one note might be harder to come by than the others. In the end, it is just noise if it is all that is played.

In short, I’ve given up on the pursuit of noise: life, liberty, and the pursuit of melody.