Today’s featured song is “If it Makes You Happy,” from Sheryl Crow on her album, Sheryl Crow.
Let’s all admit 2017 has been a shitshow in so many ways that it can be interpreted as a teen dystopian novel with elements of dark comedy (covfefe) meeting the traditional dystopian novel elements, like mind-numbing government thought control through the media (I slightly exaggerate, though Fox News adds elements of dark comedy as well). Furthermore, perverts in power ran rampant (seriously, Louis C.K., I’m not surprised at all—you aren’t that funny and to quote you, you are a “bag of dicks”). I am glad these creeps are finally getting the hypothetical kick in the balls they all deserve. At least we are driving away from the traditional narrative that middle class white boys are the only ones that can truly save the world (e.g. Harry Potter, Ender’s Game, the Giver, to name a few). They are beloved classics, but it’s time to move onward and not look back.
Overall, for the lot of us, I believe 2017 has been seemingly the year of some terrible life choices, difficult, decisions, sprinkled in with some bad luck, and grasping at straws for promises of good times. However, this year was a much-needed wake up call to make positive changes. I spent the first half the year living a picturesque lie that my relationship and career were going somewhere—clearly that was a disaster. I kept seeing my family, friends, and coworkers moving on with their lives—getting married or engaged, building new successful careers, buying houses, and generally getting their shit together, while I’ve been lucky to have work at all. It could be worse, yet three part-time jobs leave me a bit confused about my life and unfulfilled. It has been the longest December of my life, which I am being dramatic. You wonder why I didn’t choose “Long December” as my song of the day? I have my reasons not to dwell on the past.
I tried everything I could do make things right and I keep looking for answers, but it all lead to dead ends. All of my crossroads lead me to the same conclusion that people let you down, but life goes on. I would use the colloquial analogy that finding good people is like cracking pressurized coal to find the diamond in the rough, but I learned that that’s not how diamonds are naturally created. Diamonds came before coal existed. Then again, diamonds can be made from the toughest circumstances.
With the new year approaching, we set ourselves up for grandiose expectations. We make New Year’s resolutions. And ladies, I know some of you have dropped a few hundred bucks at least on buying a fancy dress, shoes, matching accessories, and make-up to fulfill our societal expectation of meeting beauty standards (I have been there). We have survived the pricey $100 ticket to get into hypothetically classy parties where separated guys in mid-life crisis offer to buy you drinks that are included in the price of your ticket and you eat dried out hors d’oeuvres to later throw them up. Or you have paid the $20 cover to have some brah-dude buy you watered down, over-priced well drinks that you accidentally spill because some woman in a too short tube skirt and 6-inch stilettos “accidentally bumps” into you, spilling your drink on your satin dress that doesn’t handle stains well. The situation makes you look like you peed your pants at recess in second grade and everyone in your head is pointing and laughing. Then, “Stilettos” runs off with the guy who just bought you a drink.
We have all been there, despondent and alone in a world surrounded by people we hopelessly try to connect with.
Better yet, let’s just bury ourselves in our favorite hoodies and say, “Fuck it, dude, let’s go bowling,” or watch Netflix, or whatever it is we want to do. The quest for happiness is a harrowing journey sometimes. We bury ourselves in staring at computer screens at work, making lunches for our kids, cutting the crusts of the bread just right, and paying bills, that we forget what happiness is. We think, “if I just had this one thing,” whether it’s a vacation, an engagement ring, or a dream job, we would be happy for life.
There is no happily ever after. Sometimes, there isn’t even a happy for now.
But there’s a way we could fix that. I may not be an expert on happiness, but after all of the mistakes I have made, I know what not to do.
1. Stop looking for outside validation
I have learned quickly that at work and in other aspects of my life, that no one is going to tell you are doing a good job. Most of the time people aren’t going to say anything, unless you are doing something wrong. Take it as a compliment. If people aren’t telling you anything, you’re probably okay. And if you’re looking for attention from people on social media, sit back and watch what people like if you’re into that sort of thing. If you don’t look like you are a mystical fairy waif who doesn’t need to wear a bra, has a triangular tattoo in the shape of a fox, and wears clothing people left behind at Coachella, don’t bother. Although I think these things are ironically cool, I realize that it’s just a representation of someone I am not. If you think that men and transgender don’t go through body image issues, you are also sadly mistaken. We all occasionally look to be our best even if we tell ourselves we don’t care. Even “mystical fairies” have problems. Don’t judge and accept what you are given. Make the best of it. Lastly, stop looking for relationships to validate your existence. Having a significant other (SO) might be nice, but that person shouldn’t be your reason for living. If you don’t have a SO, stop looking for one. They aren’t going to make all of your problems go away. It’s great to get positive attention, but if you think of it as not worrying if the person cares about you, but worry more about if you care about them. What happens the day after and the day after that?
2. “Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do”-John C. Maxwell
If you don’t like your life situation, whatever it is, get your shit together. Get it together, and put it in a backpack…(my favorite Rick and Morty rant). Stop whining and taking things so seriously. We all fall prey to being sad or angry when our needs aren’t met, but look at everyone else. There are people who have things worse and might need your help. You don’t have to save the world, but you give a little cheer or assistance in little ways. I think being a substitute teacher is like clawing nails on a chalkboard of life. Kids can be obnoxious, they don’t listen to you, act as if you are garbage at times, and try to make you feel like shit (it occasionally happens), but when you are persistent in being the person you are without cracking, it eventually dissipates. You even get a few of them to crack themselves and they stop acting like assholes for a little while, maybe even inspire them to spread their own kindness. I think this philosophy works not only in my job, but in life in general. Treat people with an open mind, but be firm with your boundaries. If you are afraid you are going to be a doormat, you may as well be a quirky inviting welcome mat that you can pull out from under people when they deserve it the most or when you need your space.
On a continuation of pursuing dreams, give up the stupid “New Year’s Resolution” bullshit. If you want to make goals, don’t tell anyone. The more you talk about it, you will feel like it’s already been accomplished, and you’ll never do it. And if you are going to tell someone, tell someone who is going to join you on your goal journey. Goals are best accomplished when you have others who are working with you, not against you. Some people feel worse when they are reminded of what others set out to do or accomplish. They are not your friends. Lastly, if you are making goals, make sure you can do them on a regular basis. Don’t set a goal to go to the gym everyday if you know your schedule is unpredictable. Make goals that you know you can achieve and want to. This month is when I decided I needed to move on, so I sent out hundreds of job applications across the country, which I plan on continuing. Let’s see what happens.
3. Realize when things don’t make you happy.
What stops us from being truly happy is not recognizing what makes us unhappy. This is often difficult, especially when concerning relationships with others. We sometimes get ourselves involved in relationships that are like slot machines. They dispense happy moments at random unexpected times that keep us wanting more. Rewards that are random and unexpected are often the most rewarding to our brains. We become addicted to people or things who act like assholes, because we had scraps of good times. Maybe those good times were the best times we had, but it’s all an illusion when we realize the relationship is based on wanting something more. You can apply the same principle to vices. You might think drinking alcohol and smoking pot excessively on a regular basis makes you happy, but you are probably masking sadness, or something else much worse. Think about my discussion above about New Year’s Eve partying rituals. We set an expectation that everything is going to be fun, and a lot of times it just goes to hell or nowhere at all.
Happiness can also be considered a place, which is literal and figurative. We can have all of the things we hoped for, but it snows 8 months out of the year and we hate being outside in the cold. Sometimes we could ignore our surroundings, but when the highest temperature is 20 degrees three months straight, it gets a little unnerving. Or even if you enjoy your surroundings, but you are not getting fulfillment from your place in life, your job, friends, family, or purpose. Happiness is not necessarily in what you get, but what you do.
4. Do the things that make you truly happy.
We are not doomed to be sad and hopeless. We can take control over our happiness to some extent. Think about the last time you were truly and consistently happy. Were there times that you spent with your friends, not worrying about having a good time, not worried about posting it on social media? Were there times that you accomplished goals you sought to accomplish? Were there times you felt truly relaxed and not worried about what the world thought of your happiness? Were there times you made someone else happy without thinking about what you got in return? Were there times you felt happy being in that moment, in that place in the universe where everything seemed right? Those are truly happy moments. Maybe a vacation or money can provide those things, but remember, those are just tools aiding in your journey to happiness. You can spend the New Year’s chillin with friends at a small house party with take-out pizza, karaoke, and corny paper crowns. Or you could spend time with your family talking about the good times and planning an exciting future? Or just be happy being by yourself, not caring about what everyone else is doing? I’m not saying partying will only lead to disappointment or that a $200 sexy dress you bought on sale won’t make you feel better, but be in the moment. And if you don’t like it, take that shit and put it in a backpack.
Best wishes to you and yours. Be safe. Happy 2018!
Check out our playlist! You can find it here and on Spotify: thirtythirdwheel