There’s a well-known phrase in America; “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. It was written in the Declaration Of Independence as basic rights for all Americans.
The truth is, they hit the nail on the head. It’s what we all want in our lives. We’re always on the pursuit of happiness. But what does it really mean, to be happy? And what if we get lost along the way?
The truth is, I’ve been unhappy for a long time. Something in my life isn’t right. My career isn’t going how I hoped and I’m stuck in a place I don’t want to be. But the pursuit of happiness often makes us make bad choices. Snap decisions that we may just later regret. But isn’t that worth it? Is it worth doing something that goes against normal judgement for just a little period of joy?
And on this pursuit of happiness, what exactly are we aiming for? Nobody can be happy all the time, so then what are we pursuing? Is it all just a myth?
Perhaps happiness is just the thing we tell ourselves we want because we actually don’t know what we’re aiming for. Perhaps it’s just this thing people create, this elusive feeling that maybe, just maybe one day we’ll be “happy”.
Now, I’m not a depressive. I know I’ve been happy before. Truly happy. I’ve had loves in my life that make me happy but I’ve never been totally happy. There’s always been something at the back of my head screaming that what I have isn’t enough. I’ve heard people say that they’re blissfully happy.
I don’t think I’ve felt that.
I’m not a Debbie Downer, my life isn’t intrinsically terrible it’s just, there seems to be a hole in my life that needs to be filled (mind out of the gutter, people).
My life hasn’t been terrible. I’ve experienced more in my 26 years than most people have in their lifetimes. I’ve experienced different cultures, I’ve experienced great food and great sex (sometimes at the same time), I’ve experienced great success, I’ve been whisked off my feet and had great, enduring romances. Yet here I am at 26 and I feel burnt out. Exhausted. Like somebody has suddenly put the emergency brake on my life and I can’t get moving again. I feel trapped, stuck and I can’t see the road ahead. I know I’ve got my whole life ahead of me but I’m looking out into darkness. Happiness seems distant. I’ve lived a great life but I’ve had to battle for all that I have.
Battling anxiety, fear, heartache, grief, anger, sorrow… like so many people, really. I guess right now I’m throwing a pity party for one. I’m not looking for sympathy or words of comfort. I’m not depressed. And the comforting thing is, I believe that I am not alone in my thinking.
In The Man Of La Mancha, Don Quixote sings about ‘The Impossible Dream’. It’s about dreaming big and aiming high and fighting the odds. We are a generation that has grownup being told that we can achieve whatever we want to achieve. No child gets left behind. Education, education, education. We’re all about aspirational living.
The problems with great aspirations is that they create great expectations. That’s how we end up with a disillusioned lower and middle class, wondering what time their boat into the sunset is going to turn up. When you grow up being treated like a Kinder Bueno, you really do start to think you can be whatever you want to be.
So then we apply that to our relationships and we run ourselves into the ground trying to find “the one”. The “one” usually consists of a mental Dr Frankenstein-ing of different celebrities into the perfect man. We create a mould, the perfect image. Zac Efron’s body with Harry Style’s head and the sex drive of a porn star. This man never exists but because we’re told that we can be whoever we want and have whatever we want, we search relentlessly to find him all the while feeling that unhappiness and that loneliness.
Our generation gets called the ‘Millennials’ or ‘Generation Rent’. We’re told we’re a nightmare to employ because we never stay put and we House of Cards our way through life, trying to climb the ladder. And who can blame us? We’ve been told for so long we can have it all and then, when we try, we get told to stop trying to have it all.
That life isn’t perfect.
But, by then, admitting that feels like giving in. Like settling. So what do we do? We keep going, keep striving.
Theresa May even spoke to that when she declared she’d do more to allow every person in the UK to achieve their “God-given potential”. But when you’ve got a whole generation of people striving for more then you can’t be surprised when they’re not happy with what they’ve got.
For gay men, this is even more pressing. We are a community obsessed with age and wealth. So we strive harder, to ‘make it’ quicker. And let’s face it, we have to make ourselves happy in a world where the odds are still against us. Where we still fight to claim our place in the world. So we want to stick it to those who try to push us down by pushing back, hoping our success and happiness will be our revenge but with that, comes the weight of the world.
“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”, basic rights afforded to all Americans. They believe that one day we’ll all find happiness because, for them, that’s the American Dream. The thing about dreams is, sometimes you just have to wake up.
The Pursuit Of Happiness, an American pursuit indeed. But I’m not American. I’m British. And, well, we go by our own saying; “life’s a piece of shit, when you think of it, everything’s always going wrong…”
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