For the longest time I’ve been suffering from existential misery. I get immersed in thoughts about how I ought to live my life, how my lifestyle should be, as though my current lifestyle were always inadequate. There’s always this deep rooted insecurity that despite whatever grand intelligence I think I have, I am going about my life all wrong.
Landing this new career defining job has caused a paradigm shift in the way that I think. Almost all of my life problems that I’ve had are about to vanish into thin air. I don’t need to be so frugal with my money that I always have to buy meat at the grocery store on sale. I can take a cab on the weekend. I can buy nice clothes. I can replace my running shoes that have holes in them. I don’t have to worry about going over my credit limit. And so on and so forth. All of these problems are, on the surface, practical issues revolving around how to live through poverty. But it’s not just that. This career frees me from the insidious dependence on my parents for financial support. Much of my adult life has been about achieving independence. Now that I can fully pay my own expenses, I have removed the last chain withholding me from being a truly independent adult. But beyond that, every experience that I’ve been deprived of due to insufficient funds has suddenly become available to me.
What’s more surprising is all the existential dread is starting to disappear as well. Suddenly all that’s lacking in my life is a significant other, and even that I feel is a foregone conclusion in the coming weeks. My prevailing thoughts have shifted towards the following sentiment: “Is that all there is to life?” All it seems to take in order to be happy in life is to have a comfortable standard of living and someone to love. It’s a total mindfuck and I almost don’t want to accept the sheer simplicity of it. It’s as though I want happiness to be this unfathomably complex problem with no solution. It is true that misery is comfortable. I’ve been depressed for so long that this feeling of happiness is unfamiliar. I almost feel angry at myself for not seeing how obvious and straightforward it is to solve the fundamental problems in my life.
In finding happiness I’ve created a new sort of void in my life. All that need for endless philosophizing is gone. My mind has been freed of the incessant thought bubble of self-hatred. And instead of accepting this change with open arms, I feel resistance to my sense of well being. My mind is searching for something to mull over and get exasperated about. Out of sheer inertia, it wants to restore its homeostatic thought pattern of miserable rumination.
I know that Socrates has claimed “the unexamined life is not worth living”. I used to love this expression because it encourages intelligence and self-awareness as a means of finding self-actualization. But now I see a kind of danger in this line of thinking. Taken to an extreme, over-examining your life takes away from your ability to simply enjoy it. It leads to this sort of unconstructive thought indulgence that has an uncanny ability to spiral into negativity.
I am starting to think that the key to maintaining happiness is to limit your thinking as much as possible. I am not saying that you should deliberately become ignorant and stupid. But rather, see your mind as a tool that only needs to be used in certain contexts. If you own a wrench, you don’t go about using that wrench every second of the day. It’s a tool you rely on when needed. Similarly, there is no point in being consumed by thought when you’re trying to sleep or gazing at the stars or enjoying a nice meal. All this serves to do is mitigate the emotions of these experiences.
That just about sums up my thoughts for today. Returning to the central focus of this post, yes, I do think that’s all there is to it. It’s kind of amusing that happiness is something a habitually depressed mind rejects because it means you have to literally train yourself to accept the happy feelings instead of questioning them. When you think of discipline, you probably imagine a person forcing themselves to do an extra push-up, or a student going on a 10 hour studying binge. Who knew it also takes discipline for a previously unhappy person to accept the presence of positive emotions? The mind is truly a blessing and a curse. I’m starting to believe the true challenge in life is conquering your mind instead of being enslaved by it.