I feel ungrateful sometimes.
I live in Hong Kong, which for all of its faults is one of the most exciting and dynamic cities in the world.
I have my health, though willingly (and stupidly) I jeopardize it in a number of ways.
I have incomparable friends and family, a job I enjoy, a roof over my head.
Why then, is it so hard for our generation of twentysomethings to find a happiness that is not transient, and unfulfilling? Generation X, generation Y: we hear these terms bandied about but they don’t come close to capturing the chronic dissatisfaction that leaves us pretending to enjoy ourselves. Because, deep down, we feel guilty if we aren’t openly enjoying ourselves 24/7. With social media, we can advertise our hedonism relentlessly. We can boast about what we’re doing, how amazingly fantastic and vital it is and how blessed it makes us feel. We can idolize our friends, venerate our families, continue conversations halfway around the world, babble to the waiting audience about what we’re doing now and how GREAT it makes us feel.
Sometimes, these assertions can ring hollow. The pressure to live up to the exciting standard of everybody else (when in reality, they have their duvet days too) is exhaustingly unrealistic. We burn out. We break down. We feel those days spent sitting at home are wasted outlets, and it’s a vicious cycle that leaves us wondering if the things we do are truly for ourselves, or for the vicarious judgement of everyone else. In a world where we’re supposed to be capable of doing anything and being anyone we want, we feel like we’re letting the side down for enjoying the little things. But what we’re failing to realize is that our exciting past-times don’t define us, and if we’re doing them for anyone but ourselves then really, what’s the point?
The truth is, it’s hard to be really, truly happy. That’s why there are countless books on the pursuit of happiness, the achievement of goals, the next step, the way forward. And when you’re treading water, desperately trying to decide what to do next and what you really want from life – well, it’s easy to feel like a disappointment to everyone else who has their shit together and expects you to have the same.
It’s on these dreary Sunday mornings when it hits home that half the time, you’re only pretending to enjoy yourself. And perhaps that the first step is to suss out what you really want, as daunting as that seems. And it’s more than okay not to want what everyone else thinks is right: it’s okay to prefer to be at home than in a big group, it’s okay to write or draw or take photographs or learn a language instead of windsurfing or hiking or baking or thrill-seeking. You shouldn’t feel like a failure if everyone else’s idea of a good time isn’t yours. And you shouldn’t feel like you’re failing when sometimes it takes you a little longer to get out of bed in the morning, or when dressing yourself and facing people today feels like an uphill struggle.
Happiness? Hard to pin down, and harder to achieve. I’m betting most of us don’t know what we really, truly want. We’re barely living past the next year, the next month, the next week – and that’s okay, too.