How Would You Define Happily Ever After?

by Agnes Chew
“And they lived happily ever after…”

How many times have you found this familiar last line bidding you farewell as you arrive at the end of a fairytale? They all begin innocuously enough, “Once upon a time…” They take us through relatable struggles of everyday protagonists before bringing us to the predictable finish, which we have all come to know as the most beautiful way to foretell the unwritten ending.

This notion of a happy ending has become so deeply ingrained in our minds that we have seemed to become conditioned into thinking that this is the one outcome we should all aspire towards in the realm of love. In this day and age, one is perceived to have achieved success in life only if one has, among other accomplishments, found his or her respective modern day princess or prince.

In Plato's Symposium, Aristophanes claimed that we had all been hermaphrodites once, before being severed into two, and that we have since roamed the Earth in search of our other halves from which we were separated. This is an enchantingly romantic notion in which I had believed earnestly as a young girl. I was certain of the existence of The One and looked forward to the day I would eventually meet my Prince Charming, with whom I would live - you know it - happily ever after.

Yet, as days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and months into years, I began to wonder where my prince was. Had he gotten lost in the woods? Or, has his horse been maimed, in which case, shall I send for another? The unraveling of these questions soon led me to question the validity of the universal assumption behind happily ever after. 

Firstly, is there truly one person so perfect in every imaginable aspect for each and every one of us throughout the course of our lives? We all have constantly evolving interests, preferences, and outlooks on life in relation to our external environments and experiences amassed. Given this, it certainly appears that the probability of there existing, and us finding, the one person with whom we are perfectly compatible with - whose interests, preferences, and outlook on life evolve seamlessly and continuously in tandem with our own - is, while not impossible, seemingly infinitesimal.

Secondly, are we losing sight of other possible alternative endings as we search relentlessly for our happily ever after? Is this necessarily the only happy ending towards which we could strive, and do we need them to be replete, anyway? Could we not live happily ever after independently with our very own selves, pursuing work that was meaningful and resonated with our beings while spending quality time with family and friends? Or, do options, such as living happily in the moment, lie beyond the locus of our desired choice(s)?

How often have we, in our dogged pursuit of some indefinite and elusive happily ever after, forsaken the plethora of opportunities that might have allowed us to live happily in the moment? We easily dismiss opportunities, which could allow us to be happy in the now, on the fragile basis of our perceived improbability of such opportunities bringing to fruition our desired last chapters. In becoming so fixated on achieving our fairytale endings, we have allowed it to define not only our successes in life, but also the manner in which we approach love and life.

If we could garner the courage and faith to allow ourselves the liberty to live happily in the moment, and to appreciate the beauty in the ambiguity, we might one day come to define for ourselves what happily ever after really means to us. Perhaps then, we will live happily ever after in our very own ways.

Top Photo Courtesy: Indulgy