So what if it hurts me?
So what if I break down?
Don’t care about all the pain in front of me
I just want to be happy
– Leona Lewis, Happy –
“It doesn’t matter what you do, what you grow up to be, or whether or not you get married, as long as you’re happy.”
It’s a line parents so often wax off on their children; that it’s OK if they want to be stamp-collectors or architects or soldiers, as long as they are happy with themselves and their choices. I am not disagreeing with the concept; childless though I may be and am likely to remain, I am fully supportive of parents encouraging their children to pursue their passions and ambitions — or at least whoever they’ve fallen in love with — and do what they believe in and feel strongly about.
But then, where does one draw the line between happiness and pragmatism (or, in more reader-friendly terms: contentment)?
We’ve seen them before: people with high-paying jobs seeking something more fulfilling, and eventually changing careers which come with personal satisfaction and a galling pay cut, only to realize that the pittance they earn isn’t going to be able to keep up with the mortgage payments in the long run; people in good relationships for years and years, and then waking up one day to realize they are in/past their prime, but they have yet to actually settle down and fulfill their secret lifelong dream of starting a family.
When we’re willing to give up everything for the sake of happiness, when does happiness kick us in the [insert body part of choice here] and remind us that there could come a time when, penniless, childless and/or homeless, we will realize that we should have just been content with, or grateful for, what we had, which could have kept a roof over our heads and stopped us from committing crimes with the office stapler?
I am guilty of being in the same Catch-25 (a reference to my age and consequently my lot in life): in a job I once loved and have grown too attached to to just up and abandon ship, because of the handful of people I’m happy to work with, and in a relationship whose fate remains in a purgatory of so many things that can’t be said, but with a man I love with my whole heart and who makes me happier than I’ve been in years. I gave up a life I loved in a place I had been happy in, knowing that my real chance to grow and learn lay elsewhere; I gave up on a love that had taught me so much, but that I had traded my self-worth and dignity for.
We may not have the heart to teach our children that with happiness comes pain, believing that we can protect them from it, but we have to teach them to understand that everything comes with a price. And we hope that they will be able to learn to tell which price is worth paying for their own concept of happiness, and learn how to pull themselves back together when the price is too high.
And I realize this is violently contradictory to my stand on happily ever after, but that’s what disclaimers are for. After all, what is happily ever after if there’s nothing to make us appreciate it all the more?