Often, people have complained to me about things that struck me as insignificant, and this phrase rang true. They were making a conscious decision to be unhappy about something that even they could see had absolutely no merit, or at the very least, they were letting it get to them when it was something that could easily be ignored. Always priding myself as the voice of reason, the pragmatic, “tough-love” friend, I told them to quit their whining and get over it. I told them that happiness is a choice, and by choosing to remain in a difficult situation or choosing to dwell on something small, they were choosing to stay unhappy. After all, I somehow managed it—I avoided stressful situations, I let things slide as needed, I changed my job when it made me miserable, I moved to another country when I got bored, I stopped calling guys who weren’t right for me—and, while bitter and cynical, I was relatively happy and stress-free.
A friend of mine is bipolar, and she complains to me…a lot. Every time I speak to her she’s upset about something. Most of the time it’s some sort of bizarre and ridiculous situation she has let herself get into—sleeping with a married man, getting fired from her job for skipping a week without calling, stressing about forming a relationship out of a one night stand. Sometimes, there’s no reason at all. She goes into one of her depressive phases and she bursts into tears because of a crack in the sidewalk. Listening to her constant streams of negativity for reasons that were either nonsensical or that she had clearly bought upon herself started to get tedious, and I dropped the “sympathetic friend” role I had adopted for her special case and told her to stop being stupid. It all seemed so simple to me—happiness is a choice! She was choosing to date these horrible men, she was letting stupid things get to her, she was constantly digging herself deeper into depression instead of focusing on ways to remedy her situation—surrounding herself with positive people, pursuing interests, getting a fucking hobby, anything.
Upon considering her situation, I realized that my belief system is wrong. No matter what she chose, the chemicals in her brain refused to let her be happy. And I realized, happiness is not a choice—it’s a consequence.
Much like you can’t control the surge of sadness that overcomes you when someone you care about dies or the gush of blood that pours out of a gaping wound, you can’t control what does and does not make you happy. Sure, there are basic ways to enhance your life in practical ways, ways that I have worked at pretty ardently. And it’s worked so far because I don’t have much to complain about. I like my family, I like my friends, I like my job.
But am I happy? Have I ever been happy?
I am content. My life is good, but not spectacular. I have nothing to be especially sad about, but I don’t have anything to be truly excited for either. And this makes me sad.
It depresses me that I feel like I’ve done everything I need to do to make my life happy, but the one thing that’s missing is the one thing I have absolutely no control over. At the risk of sounding hokey, I feel that the thing that will push me over the edge from contentment to happiness would be finding a guy. The lingering absence of this element in my life has made me become frustrated to the point that I am constantly depressed. And I’m tired of being depressed all the fucking time.
There are few people who understand my situation. The majority of my friends are the type who are constantly in relationships and they are quick to brush off my problem as something I brought upon myself—I’m too picky, I’m too closeminded, I don’t give people a chance, I keep meeting the wrong people. The people who do understand my situation, however, can appreciate how little control you actually have over your romantic life. Finding a partner entails a wide variety of things clicking at once. The timing has to be right, the situation in which you meet has to be right, you have to like them, then they have to like you—frankly, the odds are against you. I don’t care how illogical this sounds, but for some people things click much more often than others. Whether they are just the type to fall for any person who crosses their path or they’re just lucky as all shit, it happens more for them, and most of the time it’s no one’s fault. I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing what I’ve been doing wrong, and I’m done blaming myself. For one, while everything worked nicely, the intellectual aspect wasn’t there. For The Mistake, the timing was wrong. For the last one, everything was there, but the spark was missing. For another, the Atlantic Ocean was dividing us. And for another, the spark was there for me and not for him. I took the chances, I did the right things, I pursued, I tested the waters, and it just didn’t work out and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
So that’s it. I’m finally admitting what’s missing, why I’m so bitter. I did well in school, I traveled, I found the right job, I cut ties with the friendships that weren’t working out, I worked harder towards the friendships that were, I resolved my differences with my mother, I got over my adolescent warped body image and everything has worked out alright. But as long as that one, last thing, the one I can’t do a damn thing to fix, refuses to click, I am not happy.