I think it was around July this year that I had to come to terms with the truth: I was unhappy.
It was a weird thing, and a cliche at the same time. I had everything: a steady boyfriend, a good job at a Big4 company, a beautiful home, plenty of friends and hobbies. Yet I couldn’t feel joy. Don’t get me wrong, on a rational level, I knew my life was perfect and I’d done a good job getting here, especially being just 27. But on a more emotional level… I felt numb. Disconnected. Unhappy.
Now I don’t think I’m being very original here. In fact, isn’t that what we do these days? Get everything we want, then decide we don’t want it? I’d read about it in books. Hell, “Eat, Pray, Love” ranked pretty high amongst my favorite books. So how did I fall into this trap? Why couldn’t my perfect life just be enough?
I made it! Wait… made it where?
Unless we’ve actually experienced something for ourselves, our ideas about life, the universe and everything stem from what we see around us. Our friends and families, movies, books. They help us with basic knowledge, assumptions about the world and our place in it. A lot of emphasis is placed on having your life figured out. Personal and professional success: a steady relationship, a good job (preferably one you enjoy), friends. It’s a goal, a mark in the distance: just make sure you get all this right, and then you’ll finally be happy. And I did. But I wasn’t.
For weeks, I have been wondering about it. I followed all the steps. I got to the exact place I was aiming for. Where did I go wrong? Then it dawned on me: I got where I wanted to get, but I never stopped on the way to ask myself if it would really make me happy.
Rethinking basic assumptions
The thing with mental models is this: they operate on knowledge and assumptions. In my case, I took the way society described ‘success’ and then for some reason made myself belief this societal definition of success equaled happiness. Being, as many people are, someone with a desire to be happy, I kept puzzling pieces of my life into place, to fit this image of what my life needed to be. And it is only when the puzzle was complete, that I realized the picture on it was not one that made me happy. The reason: I operated under false assumptions. I needed to go back to the basics: rediscover what makes me happy, instead of blindly following what I thought should make me happy based on what I saw around me.
And so I quit my job and reevaluated my priorities. I’m still very much in the process of discovering what makes me happy. Not successful. Not cool, or accepted, or whatever. Happy. I would like to say it’s an easy process, but for me – it isn’t. Maybe it never will be. But at least, in those fleeting moments where I rediscover myself and the things that truly energize me, I no longer feel like I’m surviving. I feel like I’m alive.