The Other Worthy Chases In Life: Why I Quit The Pursuit Of Happiness

by Abby Rosmarin
Lauren Naefe

“I have a long way to go before I reach happy,” she told me, talking about happiness as if it were an X on a map.

We were sitting in my car, driving around and discussing the mess her ex left her with.  She saw her heartbreak like a gust of wind, something that blew her off course.

In her eyes, her life was now this journey, this scratching, clawing and fumbling her way back to that elusive X, to destination "happy."

In the pursuit of happiness, we all too often end up playing the role of Sisyphus. We become obsessed with pushing our burdens uphill, hoping we’ll make it to the top.

But, it will inevitably tumble back. It always will.

So, what does that make the pursuit of happiness, then?

Is it nothing more than the walk back down, counting our footsteps and calculating just how far we'll have to go until we’re happy again?

Is the pursuit of happiness just waiting for the day when we’ll actually stay at the summit?

I’m sorry, Zeus, but I’ve got to leave my post. I have no interest in pushing the boulder any further.

Some would equate giving up the pursuit of happiness with admitting defeat, with assuming there is just not enough happiness to make the pursuit worth it. I couldn’t disagree more.

There are so many wonderful reasons to smile, to laugh and to be happy. Life is tough, but life is beautiful.

There is so much joy in this world to uncover, and it doesn’t mean I won’t stop being an optimist, an idealist or a dreamer.

It does not mean I will stop finding reasons to smile. It does not mean I will stop uncovering those moments of joy.

Others would believe I don't care to be happy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are only a few things I love as much as the easy smile that comes over me when I am truly, genuinely happy. I like being happy.

I would even go so far as to say I prefer it. But, I am simply no longer fretting about the chase.

My eye is no longer on that X, feverishly plotting ways back to it whenever I am blown off course and berating myself for feeling so far away from it.

I’ve given up the quest for happiness because no one is happy all the time.

Happiness is an emotion, one that will come and go, like sadness, excitement, amusement and frustration.

How exhausting would life be if we scrambled for a constant feeling of anger the way we do for happiness?

I do not want to scramble for happiness, eschewing all other emotions because they’re somehow harder to process.

I’m done with seeing happiness as an X on a map. Happiness is not a destination; it’s a type of weather we experience while on the road.

I’m on a new quest: a quest for peace of mind, a quest to find an inner balance that can take in the good, the bad, the melancholy, the tragic, the mundane and the bizarre. I want to take it all in equally.

I want to find the poetry in it. I want to experience the whole range of human emotions and experiences that cannot be sectioned off in such easy, neat and distinct categories.

I’m on a quest to live in the present moment with my eyes wide open, thinking no more or less of myself when I am laughing, crying or sighing wearily.

I’m on a quest to continue to connect with the rest of the world. I am on a quest to experience and give experiences. I want to take that step forward and be in the universe.

I want to help, love, reach out and — maybe, through that kindness, care and charity — find a little meaning, a little satisfaction and a moment or two of happiness for myself.

I want my arms open, my heart bursting and my soul filled to the brim. I don’t want to close off because it’s not one easy, set emotion.

I’m in the pursuit of life as music. Happiness is one note, striking sharp or flat and not much more.

I want to experience and appreciate life the way I experience and appreciate music: with the crescendos and the decrescendos, the high notes and the low notes, that brief cacophony before the symphony unfolds.

How foolhardy would it be to pursue a note — one note — and demand that it be played indefinitely?

I’m no longer in the pursuit of happiness for the same reason I’m not in the pursuit of the C-sharp.

It doesn’t matter if one note might be harder to come by than the others. In the end, it's just noise if that is all that is played.

In short, I’ve given up on the pursuit of noise: life, liberty and the pursuit of melody.