I’ve waited since 3rd grade to be happy.
I was 9 years old when I first thought of killing myself. I had been sad for a long time and I felt ignored, I felt like I couldn’t do anything right, and I felt like I would be sad for my entire life. I was 10 when I thought about what I wanted to write in my suicide letter and the clues I would leave around my house for the cops to find. I would think about how the people I loved would react when they found out I was dead: my indifferent and preoccupied parents, my “friends” that wanted nothing to do with me, my coach who never believed in me. Would they cry? Would they laugh? Would they feel bad? Would they be relieved?
My fixation on suicide became unhealthy (not that it was healthy to start with). I would think about it constantly, hoping for a sign to tell me what to do. In the kitchen I would eye the knives: I could stab it in my stomach and never have to feel sad again, never have to feel anything again. When I would walk to and from school I would look on the ground for messages from God—once I saw a Y shaped stick and took it as “Yes, you should kill yourself,” but then I saw a vauge NO rock formation and thought it must mean “No, you should not kill yourself.” I would leave messages all over my house hoping someone would find them, someone would talk to me, someone would tell me what I was supposed to do.
One day on Google+ I saw a text post about a woman who was once depressed, but now was preaching: “Don’t kill yourself! I didn’t and now I am so happy,” and then it hit me, all I needed was Happiness. Happiness became this all-healing, powerful, golden ideal and all I wanted to do was touch it and hold it and squeeze it as hard as I could and never let go. My new fixation became Happiness. When adults would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up I responded with something out of my long list of jobs: rockstar, director, doctor. But in my mind I would constantly repeat the word: Happy. Happy, happy, happy. When I grew up I wanted to be happy.
But I had no idea how to be happy. I had no idea what it meant to be happy. My parents were not happy, but my friends were happy, so I copied them. I adopted a persona that was positive, a persona that would crack jokes, a persona that always had a smile on my face. I did what I thought I was supposed to do: fake it till you make it.
But I could not fake it when I was alone and I hated myself for it. I had everything I needed in the world: a good education, a house over my head, unlimited food. Who cares if my family was a wreck? Who cares if I lacked a few friends? My sadness felt unwarranted, it felt stupid, and it felt pathetic. And even as I type this on my Macbook Pro 2019 my parents bought me after I dropped and broke my MacbookAir 2016 I cringe at my sadness.
Absolute hating the fact that I was always sad I decided to shut down entirely. I would go weeks without feeling anything, happy or sad. I would simply feel empty, hollow. I perfected my smile and my laugh to the point where I could trick myself into thinking I was actually happy. But as soon as I was alone the emptiness would consume me and would I drive on autopilot. A tactic I continuously resort to, even now.
But then one day I realized that life just isn’t that deep. There were a collection of things that led up to that awakening, realization. The dominos started to fall when I first heard “YOLO,” in an audience full of prepubescent teens watching a boy jump from a table to the ground. It was a call and response: the boy said “YOLO,” and the audience responded with a reassuring “YOLO.” Not wanting to seem uncultured, I waited until I got home to look up the abbreviation on Urban Dictionary. You only live once. And then you die. The next was the quote I heard from Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” which basically states that humans are insignificant:
“Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings; how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot,”
The final moment was when the world (surprisingly) did not fall apart after I very publicly humiliated myself in front of a boy. No one really remembered that happening and no one really cared. These three things led to me one day wake up and realize that in the grand scheme of things nothing really matters except for the things that matter.
Every person is a collection of particles. Everyone is basically borrowing atoms and molecules from the Earth to make up their body which eventually they return back to the Earth allowing their atoms and molecules to transform into energy that will eventually become another being. But self is not about actual the body, it is about your identity. Your identity is separate from your body and I consider it your soul. I envision the soul as a glowing ball that contains every memory, thoughts, ideas, and hope circling in it. Without your soul your would be a zombie, but with your soul you have the ability to take your thoughts and test them with action. The soul is one of the few guaranteed things that every human being is born with. It has nothing to do with race, social setting, or economic class. The soul is a bright light that is filled with notions beyond human-made social constructs and it holds the answer to “Who am I?”
There is no clean way to answer the question “Who am I?” To understand yourself you have understand why you do what you do. For me I had to understand why I would plan to hang out with my friends, but then cancel plans with them last minute, and as a result left me feeling bad about being a flake. I thought about it and realized that I would force myself to be social because I thought it was what I was supposed to do, but in reality I need time alone to recharge. Now I spend some of my Friday nights alone, happily unbothered by the rest of the world. By just thinking through my actions I was able to figure out what the problem was and what was the solution.
There is not a simple formula to learn about yourself. There is not one moment in time where you finally find yourself. Learning about yourself is a lifelong process. It is full of repetition and hard work. But through the process is when you will find yourself at your happiest. Of course you will have days when nothing goes right and days when you just feel sad, but you will also have days where everything goes right and days when you are just happy to be alive.
When you know who you are, you won’t feel the need to fit into a certain label. You will know what you want in life and you will go out and get it.
Yesterday I was rejected from my dream school. I knew that there was a slim chance for me to get in, but when I opened the letter and saw the word “regret,” my stomach dropped and the emptiness started to take over. To my surprise I spent exactly 1 hour and 46 minutes moping around and then picked myself up and started typing out my essays for other schools. I realized that, that school didn’t have the key to make me happy—I did. If I got into the school I would have been happy for some time and then, something else would catch my attention and I’d forget all about getting in.
Following this mindset is hard for me. I constantly resort to the same self-deprecating and unproductive thinking, but I use reflection and self awareness to remind myself that there is no point to dwell. When swimming or hiking or even just driving I reflect on my day: what I liked, what I didn’t like, and overall trying to look at my actions as a way to learn more about myself.
The point of life, in my eyes, is to feel. Feel all the different emotions that comes from being alive, to feel connected to others, and feel connected to ourselves. To do that we need to stop waiting for the magical moment to be happy. We have to be unapologetically ourselves, go after what we truly want, and know who we are.