Happiness Isn’t the End Goal


By Kate

I had a really good childhood. My parents were loving and supportive. My sister was nurturing. My brother was overprotective. And for all those reasons, I often felt happy.

I was sheltered in the best way possible, by my Iowa hometown, my close-knit family, and my loyal friends. So, feelings of sadness, shame, and loneliness came in short lived spurts.

Then, when I was 17, my brother passed away unexpectedly. And for the first time in my life, happiness wasn’t easy, automatic, or authentic anymore. It felt hard. To be honest, it felt impossible. How could I be happy when the only world I had ever known ceased to exist? How could I smile and laugh outwardly while my heart was physically hurting? How could I be my outgoing and bubbly self if I was grieving?

But the flipside was this: If I wasn’t a happy, then who was I?

Enter an identity crisis between the person I had always been, the person I’d been taught and encouraged to be, and the new, struggling person standing before me. Because I couldn’t quite rectify the two, I lived both lives. I smiled and laughed with others. I dove back into school and sports. I chose to be happy. Because it’s a choice, right? So, when people asked how I was, I answered, “great!” flashing a grin as backup proof.

And then, at night, alone, with my door closed and lights off, I allowed the sadness and grief I carried deep down to creep its way up to the forefront of my mind. I cried with puffy eyes and a pounding head and I experienced pain, real and raw.

My double existence didn’t stop there. If anything, that was just the start of it. It was an introductory crash course into how to manage, conceal, and express emotions at socially acceptable times and in socially appropriate ways. Feelings that are positive should be expressed and feelings that are icky and unpleasant should be controlled, if not denied. After all, your vibe attracts your tribe. And who wants a mopey, down in the dumps tribe? Not me.

But you know what I do want? A real tribe. An honest tribe. People who can acknowledge that sometimes life is so amazing that they feel overwhelmed with gratitude and awe. Like when the Chicago Cubs make it to the World Series for the first time in 71 years and in watching, they have tears streaming down their face because their dreams as a sports fan have finally been realized.

And conversely, those same people who can then acknowledge the depths of grief and despair, who can admit that sometimes life is rough, and that they have certain mornings that they wake up and they’re not sure they have it in them to get out of bed and take on the day.

Because life isn’t one or the other. It isn’t happy or sad. It isn’t communal or lonely. It isn’t easy or hard. It’s both. It’s all of the above. And we need to be able to be real about that. We need to be able to look at one another, to admit that we’re not always okay, and to know that we’re not alone.

Perhaps happiness isn’t the end goal to work towards. Maybe instead, the goal is to fully feel, and in doing so, to fully live. To know heartbreak only because we’ve known love. To know sorrow only because we’ve known joy. To experience, accept, and express our truest emotions on both ends of the spectrum, and everything in between.

{featured image via pexels}

4 thoughts on “Happiness Isn’t the End Goal

  1. Happiness is Hard says:

    beautiful post. It is so true we are taught we are supposed to be ‘great’ all the time and if we aren’t then we are less ok somehow for others. I’ll take authentic and day of the week for myself and those I surround myself with, so much more interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Annie from Australia says:

    This is a lovely story, one that will help people to think about what is important to them in their lives. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and perhaps what was or seemed to be a carefree life is suddenly filled with all sorts of uncertainty. You are right, happiness is very one dimensional and life for most of us, will never be that, there are many more emotions and your beautiful story helps me at least, realise, it is ok to feel lonely, afraid, uncertain, sad or even loved, brazen, brash or even happy…life is all of this, we must be ok with it all..
    Thankyou I loved this story
    Hugs from
    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. justbemyself2016 says:

    Love, love, love this post. It speaks so true of the cruelty and limitation of human life, yet showing us it is ok to be in a negative situation. Gives me so much strength after reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

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