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January 7, 2009 in health, love and relationships, society | Tags: don't worry be happy, happiness, happy, love, marriage, meher baba, money, pressure, self-help, suicide, taoism, wealth, yin yang | 2 comments
We all know the song by the same name, but what you may not know is that the quote itself came from an Indian mystic who went by the name of Meher Baba. It really does encompass what should be our ideal approach to life.
Don’t worry, be happy.
Why is it so hard?
Happiness, like perfection, is extremely relative and yet people hold themselves to this elusive standard of happiness. Happiness for some means wealth, for others, it’s sexuality, and for others still, it’s spirituality. What does it even mean to be happy?
“I’m happy today.”
The next logical statement would be “why are you happy?” Happiness is conditional, and happiness is variable.
“I’m happy today because I got an A on my paper.”
“I’m happy because I didn’t miss the train.”
“I’m happy because my dog survived the fire.”
“I’m happy because…”
We learn what makes us happy from our personal experience, and by learning from others. The problem, though, is when we try to squeeze our lives into someone else’s definition of happiness when we know it won’t be a good fit.
“If you become a doctor, you will be happy.”
“If you follow this religion, you will be happy.”
“If you marry before the age of 30, you will be happy.”
It may work, and sometimes it may work temporarily. Usually it doesn’t work at all. Citing the first example…sure you may be happy for the first year or two, but if you are not completely vested in the idea of caring for the sick day in and day out and facing an increasingly complicated healthcare industry with its malpractice suits and insurance issues, you will crash and burn.
The most important thing in understanding what makes you happy is being in tune with your wants and needs, and not caving into pressure from others unnecessarily. It’s, of course, easier said than done.
The second most important thing to remember is that money does not equal happiness.
The third most important thing is that sadness and happiness are both temporary states.
To illustrate the first point, I’ll use myself as an example. There is incredible pressure for me to marry within the next two years, both given the fact that I’m looking at a medical career and finding time to marry gets harder and harder as medical school goes on, and the fact that it seems like everyone around me is getting hitched.
“You will be happier because you will be more ‘secure.’”
“You will be happier because you can safely have a child before 30 if you marry soon.”
This is how I see it. Yes, there is that notion of security that comes from being in a committed relationship, and marriage is the definitive seal of commitment in the context of Indian society. Yet the definition of security here is financial. I place slightly greater stock in emotional security, though I recognize financial is important. Here, the wants and the needs of my parents and me don’t quite match up.
I would not mind being married soon, but I know that I will not be happy if I get married too soon. In India, marriage is encouraged early. For me, I am fairly certain I will get married before I am 30 (at least that’s the game plan), but at the same time I will only do it when I feel ready and when my to-be-husband feels ready as well. I will only do it when I know that I am ready to not only take care of myself, but also take care of my husband, and a new family, and remain happy as only I can. I know if I were to get married today, it would be disastrous. While I may love the man, I would not be at ease with married life. I know I wouldn’t be happy.
The second point is probably best demonstrated by the tanking economy and the recent increase in suicides. Maybe I’m short-sighted, since I can’t see how losing money justifies killing yourself, and sometimes taking others with you (as was the case with a family out in California). Money can make life secure, and certainly take the load off, but money does not equal happiness. A few years ago, Bangladesh–one of the poorest countries in the world–ranked as one of the happiest.
The third point is something I’m sure we have all experienced. I like adopting the Taoist outlook on the world to justify this point, specifically, the concept of yin and yang. Here, you can make the argument that with the stationary yin yang, happiness as we experience it in day-to-day (white portion) activities is tempered with a little sadness (black spot), and vice-versa for sadness. In rotating the yin yang, you can interpret that as the balance of happiness and sorrow. Each episode of happiness is balanced out with an equal episode of sadness, and vice-versa. Neither state is permanent, and neither state overwhelms the other. Every cloud does have its silver lining.
And I guess one thing that may have crossed your mind is “who the hell is she to start pontificating about what happiness is, it’s not like she’s some self-help guru.”
Obviously I’m not.
I’m still human, still imperfect, and still figuring things out. I spent a decent chunk of college feeling depressed and wallowing in self-pity, thinking that the storm that had blown in was in for the long haul, and that I would eventually drown in the deluge. Friends and family, however, eventually helped me realize a few fundamental things:
1. There is no point in getting bogged down by every little misstep and every little unfortunate event. Never get consumed by it. Always be logical in your handling of the situation. This is not to say be an emotionless robot, but a clear head goes a long way.
2. Never cave into pressure from anyone. Your parents, friends, relatives, and colleagues all certainly mean well when they give advice. It is never fair, though, when they try to dictate what you should do to meet their own definition of happiness.
3. No matter how dire things seem, there are always people who are there to back you up and keep you afloat, no questions asked.
4. You are the only one that can create your own definition of happiness.
There is no point in learning anything if you are not willing to pass on the information to help other people. This is what I have learned. Take it with a grain of salt, but I hope it does help.
So don’t worry, be happy…whatever that means to you!