If we could take our days, from today out, and write a fairy tale of our lives, what course might we chart? What destiny might we find to occupy our time before our days run out?
My heart beats in me, ticking, reminding me that one day, it will give up the ghost. My shortness of breath, a symptom of what seems to be walking pneumonia, too reminds me that I am but mortal.
And so, at thirty, I am conducting myself like one who knows he will die.
This, of course, means that I today am regarding myself and my time with an appropriate degree of reverence – particularly when it comes to others who do not.
There are, in fact – and unfortunately so – few who possess the shining disposition, joie de vivre, and omnipotent idealism I have so fiercely fought to cultivate within myself. Qualities that lead me towards happy solitude rather than resigned contentment; for happiness is everything.
Happiness is everything.
Happiness is the key to success, the cornerstone of love, and the linchpin of inner peace. Only, we chase our tails, placing the cart before the horse, pushing an impossible stone up a hill with no summit in sight; in short: we make life a very hard battle in our fight to be happy – in our belief that success, love, and inner peace will bring us happiness.
What we forget, what people who are old and dying remember, is that happiness is a choice.
What they don’t tell you, however, is that while happiness is a choice, it can very often be a hard choice. And, as I have long said, the easy thing and the right thing are seldom the same. Our happiness is no different; we must choose between making the hard choice or facing the toughest of consequences. When viewed in this light, some of the hardest choices you will ever have to make become very easy.
Yes, happiness sometimes means leaving that person who says they love you (But won’t stop communicating with other people behind your back and lying to you about it). Happiness also sometimes means going against what other people think you ought do and become. Happiness can also sometimes mean not listening to others, who often have their very own selfish motives for trying to chart your life course to suit their aims. But all of these choices have one commonality, and that’s the thread that each is a decision between what others want and what you want; for happiness always means listening to your own heart and intuition, which, in borrowing the words of Steve Jobs, somehow already know what you want to become.
Happiness requires that you be the hero of your story – not the victim. Happiness requires you to exercise the latent traits that exist in each of us: courage, faith in ourselves, a belief in our desires, and the ability to face our fears. We can all do these things. Only, most of us are too afraid to let others down. We are too afraid to exercise the healthy selfishness that happiness demands of us.
I spent my entire life living this way. And not only did my happiness suffer as I made myself a martyr of other’s happiness, but I also made myself incredibly easy to manipulate. In essence: I was walked on like a doormat time and time again, because some people are savages. Some people take advantage of others. Some people lack the things that most make us human, things like empathy and compassion.
There are two kinds of selfishness: the first is wielded by those who let others down and never take responsibility for it, instead, often blaming the very people they hurt. Whereas the latter, is a kind of selfishness exercised only as a means to preserve happiness, rather than selfishness that serves as a tool for happiness at the expense of others, as the former does.
The first results from lacking empathy and compassion for others, which is, in effect, a kind of ignorant malice. The second kind of selfishness, that which preserves happiness, is simply when you put your own happiness and inner peace before those who would do repeated harm to it.
Unfortunately, the very people who would exercise their own ignorant selfishness at your expense will have you believe that you are doing the same to them, when you are simply saying, I’m sorry, but the sanctity of my self-respect, the security of my inner-child, and the inner peace of my being – the very things my happiness requires – are more important to me than any relationship.
Because if you spend your life afraid to speak up for your inner voice, too scared to stand up for your values, and too concerned with pleasing those who do not have the depth of empathy and compassion to care for you in the manner you do them, then you will suffer. And the acid of your suffering will eat away at your soul, often until you find a greater pain with which to bury it. Addictions, self-harm, destructive behavior – these things are often all manifestations of a soul in pain. And what a soul in pain needs, what your inner child needs, is a hero. Someone to stand up for you, someone who will speak up for the sanctity of your self-respect and the security of your inner peace. And the only person who can do this is You.
You are either the hero of your story or the victim. Any victim can be miserable. But it takes a hero to be happy.
And yes, you will have to let others down. But there are always two people to let down: yourself or others. And you have to choose whom, in a given situation, you will let down. You have to ask yourself, which choice will let you sleep better at night. Because betraying yourself is the worst kind of betrayal there is. And it will eat away at your soul. It will eat at your soul until you are a shell of the person you once were. And then, after you have tried to fill that shell with whatever hurts more than the pain or your own self-betrayal, and that pain becomes too much for you, then and only then will you learn. And maybe this time, you will let down those who deserve it, by virtue of – or lack of it in – their own actions.
So, from here, where do I go? Well, I begin to reward myself; for the hard choices I must make, I decide that I will make a fairy tale of my life. And no one will stop me.