The Pursuit of Happiness (And a Few of the Many Pitfalls You Might Find Along the Way)

I have recently come to the decision to not take shit from anyone.

I think we all reach a point like this in our lives eventually. For some, it is certainly a much easier and quicker decision than for others. In my case, I just got tired. Tired of apologizing, tired of holding my tongue and tired of being embarrassed. I won’t get into the details, but I have struggled a great deal in the past with happiness. I still have trouble keeping that sneaky little bugger around. I have spent the majority of my young life searching for a greater purpose, I have always told myself that I needed to make my mark on the world before I left; I have always needed to matter somehow. However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty hard to line up a spot in the history books. As you grow up, you get in your own head. You realize just how far away your goals are, making compromise after compromise until you barely recognize yourself, just hoping not to end up on the streets. You spiral deeper and deeper into disillusionment, and eventually, you find yourself clinging to the harsh reality that no matter how hard you try, you’ll just end up being forgotten.

No pressure though.

It takes a lot of time and strength to pull yourself out of the nihilist pit. In my case, I turned to the conclusion that if I couldn’t make anything of myself, I would work to improve the lives of others. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the noblest paths in life that a person can choose, and at first, the concept provided some security and motivation that I had been seriously lacking. However, I started using this idea as an excuse to mistreat myself, allowing others to abuse me because I didn’t have the guts to let them know it hurt. All in all, it didn’t work out great for me either.

So I overcompensated. I had spent so long refusing to express myself that, now, it’s all I do. If I don’t want to go out with my friends, I’ve learned to say no. If someone is irritating me, I tell them so. I wander around school between classes as I please, and I eat as much as I want wherever I feel like it. Now I shout and wave my arms when I speak, and I’ve earned respect from many of my peers as someone who, as I always dreamed, takes shit from no one.

Perhaps to some of you, it sounds like I have chosen to become a loser, or just an asshole, which is a fair assessment I suppose. However, I’m sure equally many of you lovely readers know the simple joys of staying in or eating alone. No matter what you would personally choose to do if you took shit from nobody isn’t really the point here. What I’m trying to say is that, for the first time, I am considering my own needs first. And it feels damn good.

But, in all honesty, it’s also very lonely.

It’s true, I’m feeling empowered, I love feeling strong. It’s certainly a better alternative to shoving my own needs by the wayside. But I am not cured. I still worry about where I am headed, I still find myself hiding in my room at night, terrified and wishing, more than anything, that I wasn’t alone. And I wonder, am I weak? Am I just not built to stand alone? Yes, I say what I want, I don’t take shit from anyone, but at the end of the day I’m the only one there to comfort myself anymore.

I still have no idea what the universal recipe for fulfillment is, if such a thing exists, and I’m not here to tell you how to be happy. Happiness is something we all want, but it slips through your fingers far too easily if you aren’t careful.

I know this article maybe should have been about something that seems more relevant to our cause, like 5 tips for better menstrual health. Don’t worry, we’ll get right on that. But, in the meantime, I wanted to share my experiences because, well, emotional stability is an equally important part of personal health. Happiness, fulfillment, confidence; these things all go hand in hand but are all just as hard to pin down. Searching for them is exasperating and seems impossible, but that’s the human experience. In our case, I think finding confidence in yourself is the first step in taking control of your own body, your own mind. For women, the promotion of self-confidence is still relatively new, but fighting for it is something that defies gender or race or any other division.

The rate of mental health issues is higher in our generation than in any before our time. We all grapple with fear, loneliness, and grief in our own ways, and sadly I don’t have a quick fix for you. But I am here to remind you that, as a fellow confused child walking the world without a set path, you are not alone. You just have to make a decision every day, you have to choose to get up in the morning even when you want the disappear under the sheets forever. You have to choose to keep up the search, try out everything you can. Maybe you will have your name up in lights someday, or maybe you will choose to find happiness in the smiles of your friends and family. Or, just maybe, you’ll find the courage to walk down the street with your head held high, and find out you were stronger than you ever thought you could be.

And when it does get tiring, when you find yourself ready to give up and fall back onto the mattress, my advice is to find comfort in the little consistencies that make up your life. Look up at the color of your ceiling. Close your eyes and listen to the television in the other room, or squeeze the fabric of your t-shirt between your fingers.

It’s not easy, but you are alive. And that’s pretty fucking amazing.