The “Enjoy Life” Mission is Not to be “Happy”

I’m not sure what the title of my blog causes people to assume, but I don’t, by any means, “enjoy life” all of the time. I feel like there is actually a very devastating and stressful pressure to “enjoy life” among a lot of people of my generation, and I’m hoping this blog can be the place where we can let go of pressures like that. Do you know what I’m talking about? Have you felt it too?

The Pressure to Be Happy: You Have No Right to be Sad

Maybe the pressure comes from the stresses that previous generations had to go through to get us where we are today. We have food on the table, so we really shouldn’t complain. That makes sense.  But then we have the other end of the spectrum.

The Pressure to Be Happy: You Should Be Rich Doing What You Love, Everyone Else Is!

We could end up being famous like entrepreneurs that run the social media websites and singers that compete on our televisions. We see people making millions for doing something they enjoy, so why shouldn’t we be able to do the same thing?

If we end up in a good job, there’s pressure to be “happy” in it especially if it makes big bucks and we worked our lives for it. If we aren’t in a good job,  we either should find a good job or make the next billion dollar idea or be the new YouTube sensation.

The possibilities are endless, so why are we the only ones in a mediocre job in an icky mood when everyone else is traveling the world having babies and creating masterful lasagnas and found-art garden statues from Pinterest while getting billions of views for that video they posted of their kid saying something silly?

Maybe the pressure comes partially from the fact that we are visible. We share our joy and love with everyone we’ve ever met through various “feeds” so we can graze on everyone’s updates like farm animals sharing space at the trough.

The last thing that I want this blog to be is a place that contributes to that pressure to be happy and joyous.

This Blog is Fueled By Frustration & Fear

I am a person plagued with insecurities, anxieties, fears and frustrations. I also meditate and like to try and improve my relationship with the world. My regular frustrations and insecurities are blessings because I constantly have something to work on, write about, and share to relate with others who are feeling the same things.

This blog is not here to make you happy or to add to that pool of one-sided joy you see in your feeds. It’s here so that we can catch ourselves responding to these pressures and realize that nothing is wrong with us. Everyone gets pissed off, feels unfulfilled sometimes, and wonders whether they were the only one who slipped into adulthood without passing the test that everyone else took that shows you do in fact know what the heck you’re doing.

The Point is to Be Willing to Feel Something New

I know that dishes in the sink will always piss me off sometimes and that I’ll always have frustrations with my job, no matter what the job is or what type of dishes they are. I could make billions a day for testing the softness of pillows and have rainbow crystal opal dishes and I would still get pissed sometimes. That’s okay.

When I pretend that I don’t get mad or that life is some perfect happy everything-happens-for-a-reason type of thing, my heart rots and I start to feel alone, feeling like everyone else gets to just do what they love all the time and that I should be doing that too. I need to remember that it’s okay to feel genuine feelings even if they are icky. I don’t have to run from them or make them all fit into the mold of “happy” against their will. Then I feel fake, and that’s not cool.

“Enjoying life” from the perspective of this blog is not about being happy. It’s about noticing the may ways we run away from the present moment and making the choice, sometimes at least, to feel something new.

Did you think this blog was about being “happy” when you first found it?

Do you ever feel the pressure to become something different or be somewhere different than where you are now? Does that pressure come from you or from somewhere else?

Do you think you’d have fun as an Internet Sensation?

49 thoughts on “The “Enjoy Life” Mission is Not to be “Happy”

  1. I believe our brains are wired to respond to changes in our circumstances not position on a hypothetical scale, so we are happy or sad based on what has happened to us without reference to others in war-torn lands. I believe in loving what I do not doing what I love. When I feel pressure to be something different it is either because I have forgotten these beliefs or just realised that I forgot them when making a previous decision.

    • Thank you for reading, I feel quite similar. I realize that I can love/appreciate/enjoy nearly any experience just for the mere sake that it is happening. Appreciating the hotness of the hot is far different from thinking “Ugh it’s too hot I wish I was cooler.” It really does come down to just remembering that presence, and that choice. It’s always fun when it happens, thank you for your reminder of that power!

  2. Your blog title implies that most people don’t know how to enjoy life…and enjoy is far different than the goal to be happy. I have always felt that to be content, or happy, is to be dead. In my opinion, it is the struggle that makes life worth living….with moments of joy and sorrow mixed in between.

    The pressure to become something else is always there…one sees it everyday …the TV, observing people…then there is pressure from you parents…especially at younger ages…and most important of all…in this economic dominated era…economics is constantly bearing down everything we do.

    • I enjoy the struggle as well, especially whenever I picture life without it. Definite deadness! I sort of forgot about the pressure from parents, that is such a relevant thing for younger people. I wonder if there will be a general movement towards more awareness in the future, now that there are so many tools. One can only wonder, really.

  3. Having lived in different places, I think this is a distinctly American (and Canada is absorbing it too) concept. People think of the “Pursuit of Happiness” sentence ringing through our national history and forget the very first word. Pursuing something doesn’t mean you’ll get it. I had a POlish friend in Germany who scoffed at Americans thinking they had some right to happiness. But companies latch onto that and try to sell us happiness. We’re all warped in the head if we think that will work. Sadly, that commercialism is spreading to other western countries.

    • That makes sense, I feel like I heard some disturbing statistic about the rate of anorexia in relation to our media going to new places. It’s so sad. I guess people are spending long hard hours studying the brain and psychology to figure out which things are most effective to get us to buy stuff.

  4. The struggle is half the fun of life but we do forget to enjoy it. I have learned (the hard way) that I should live my life enjoying the reality not succumbing to the fantasy. I also agree that commercialism has a lot to do with our focus on “happiness” and also on our definition of happiness.

    • I like how you put that. I’ve been reading this book (very slowly) called The Happiness Trap and they discuss a few definitions of what it means to be “happy”. That book sort of woke me up to a lot of the fantasy aspects of it, since we sometimes imagine “happy” to always mean “feeling good” when really, having a good fulfilling situation also includes less desirable feelings as part of it. That is so great that you are learning in a way that works for you!

  5. Very powerfully honest post Jennifer. Legitimately this piece was quite moving because I could relate to many aspects, and it isn’t always that someone is quite so brutally honest about their feelings. I know I’m not.
    I did not believe your blog was about being ‘happy’ when I initially discovered your writing. I thought it was the wise ideas of a certain young woman adept in life and its potential daily occurrences and knowledgeable on the internal feelings of stereotypical human beings.
    Personally, my perceptions on happiness might be somewhat similar to the stereotypical individual, however I often feel that I can tell when someone is faking such an emotion. I have this entrenched belief that no one can be happy all the time, and people who are I immediately take a dislike too because I believe that their attitude is entirely fake, and therefore unbelievably off-putting. This might also be because I am usually more dark and morbid than happy and ecstatic. In fact, my mother used to call me Mr. Morose, pronouncing the ‘ose’ as an ‘osi’. Don’t ask me why.
    To some extent I believe that happiness could on one level be overrated unless it is legitimate. This entrenched conception to live a happy life is just one of the many burdens placed onto the shoulders of numerous people. When are we able to relieve ourselves of these continuous burdens and just start living for ourselves? When we’re young, our parents sometimes attempt to push us into something and make us into what they want; our friends attempt to conform us to their preferences; our partners want us to change, more often than not to appease their friends and family. Is there many an occasion when we can simply be ourselves without fear of a reprisal?
    As for how I would feel with being an internet sensation, I cannot answer that – yet. However, if you would kindly write a ‘follow totalovrdose’ blog post, then perhaps I could find out. No pressure though.

    • Your comments always make me smile. When I get 10,000 followers, I’ll write a “follow totalovrdose’ post! Hold me to it. It is interesting how we get sculpted into certain ways of life. There’s just so many aspects to it- because if we feel that we “should be” happy, and we fail, and have kids, then maybe we also take that on them like you say and try to get them to be happy, forgetting that the trap was really doomed to fail all along unless we teach ourselves to be happily unhappy sometimes, because then those feelings can move and we can be here now, as they say. Always good stuff to think about :)

  6. Sorry this is a long reply.

    “It’s about noticing the many ways we run away from the present moment and making the choice, sometimes at least, to feel something new.”

    That. That is what I have been doing for the past year, and how I have personally come to “enjoy life for once” and to be quite honest, become a happier person in general. I use to focus on the past, running away from the present but this year, I have been making the choices to do new things and therefore feel something new.

    Honestly, I didn’t read too much into your title. Everyone has a reason for their titles. It’s not always self-explanatory.

    I have never felt the pressure to become something different, which is probably why it has taken me so long to figure out what I want to be. I have felt the pressure to be in a better position than I am now because I have felt looked down upon. I’m a girl with a bachelors degree working in part-time in retail. That pressure hasn’t come from myself, it has come from other people. Guys that I have dated in the past. Everyone sees that I can/should be doing something better than what I was doing but no one could see my struggles with finding what I wanted to do nor could they feel the fear of failure that has kept me from trying. I am very different from a lot of people in the sense that I don’t feel pressure from the others around me, I feel the disappointment and sadness that they feel for me when they realize that I am a girl with a bachelors degree working part-time in retail.

    As for whether I think I would have fun as an Internet Sensation. It depends on what you mean by that. Do you mean like the one hit wonders kind of internet sensation where one video/one post/one picture goes viral? Or are you talking about the internet stars like youtubers that have a following almost as big if not bigger than actors/actresses/artists? If you are talking about the first one, I would say no. If you are talking about the second one, I would say yes. We are all looking to belong and the difference between internet stars and celebrities is that their fan bases often feel more like a community more than just a bunch of fans all together liking one thing. It’s a bunch of people with common interests/opinions/etc not just one usually. I don’t know if that makes any sense at all but that is what I feel internet stars are. Plus a lot of them get to just be them and make money while doing it. What is so wrong about wanting to be that?

  7. I need to add that even though I felt the disappointment and sadness, it didn’t pressure me because I knew what I was/am doing even if it’s a struggle that has/is taking far too long. I am on my own timeline not theirs. This comes from my learning early in life that I cannot do something I do not want to do. I will not be content and I will not succeed in it. So, I haven’t felt the pressure from others nor myself because I will do things at my own pace.

    • Slacker…lol…j/k

      Well, I have a bachelors and masters and ten years professional work experience…and now I too am working part-time retail at night…lol…its pretty tough out there to get a high paying job…and it is good you are taking your time to search for something you can be passionate or semi-passionate about AND make money…I have found that the making money aspect ruins most things related to passion…so I may be a few decades older than you but I too am still searching…perhaps the search will never end…or we simply have to separate passions from the need to make money.

    • Thank you for the long response- no need to apologize for those around here :) I worked retail for a long time after college, and now my job is even lower-tier in some ways. Hearing that Tincup has his bachelor’s and masters and still does retail at night is awesome to me. It’s a strange, strange economy and world because really, anything can be enjoyable and inspiring. Being able to go through life at our pace, aware of the pressures and where they come from, is amazing. It lets us live, which is the best thing to do no matter what level of education or income or experience we have. Being here now is really just it and like you said- doing new things, even minute things or huge things, can change the way everything feels!

      And in terms of what type of internet sensation, I meant more the second type. And it is so cool that some people can do that, I didn’t think about how much more of a feeling of “community” it adds in that form as you pointed out. What a good point! It really does allow some people to do what they love for a living, and that is a great thing for them. It would also be nice to focus on people like you and me an Tincup who work regular jobs but still find the joy in life itself sometimes, that to me is so cool and it’s hard to *see* that process, but it’s equally as inspiring as someone who has worked on a talent their whole life to share with the world..it’s its own type of talent, just not as visible of one I guess. Wow. I hadn’t thought of it that way!

      • I’m glad your ok with my long response. I tend to have a lot to say sometimes especially in response to such a great post. I agree, awareness can be such a liberating thing in a way. It definitely has opened my eyes in the past year.
        I definitely agree that it is nice to focus on people like us who work regular jobs and still find joy in life itself sometimes. It’s not easy, and is definitely inspiring.

  8. Great post and I think I had an experience you can relate to. I went to the dr for a regular check up and she had me take a five question “test” as a result of these five questions she diagnosed my as depressed and gave me a prescription for the cure in the form of pill. I was shocked, I asked her how she can sleep at night before giving her the prescription back and leaving the office. I lost a lot of tools to hurricane sandy and the financial ramifications were enough to make me unhappy but I’m not Brian Wilson either ( he stayed in bed for three years cause of depression). We are allowed to be unhappy and more importantly we should be a certain times. I’m not saying there isn’t legit purposes for these pills but drs should do more then ask a few questions and whip out the pen!

    • Wow, that is very interesting. Especially right after the hurricane! You’d think the professionals would either say ‘here’s a temporary fix to help things if you want it’ or ‘we should wait until you recover from the disaster to determine if we need to give you something’
      That is quite disturbing, I agree there should be more than a few questions before whipping out the pen!

  9. I love that. You have food on the table don’t complain!
    My husband and I debate things like that all the time. Well now we have food so can we don’t have to address your what ever problem!
    It’s painful to watch the previous generations try to ignore there emotional issues. Can’t we worry about food AND deal with Dad’s drinking problem? I really think it’s a lazy way of living saying you can’t do both.
    You are outside plowing a field what are you thinking about? People who don’t want to admit they have issues and solve them say things like, You have food don’t complain. We’ve spoken a lot about this obviously! Great post!

    • Haha exactly, both are quite possible! It can be such a cop out, because no matter what someone has it way way way worse than you. It shouldn’t diminish what you want to work on or do, but it can easily be used by someone else or yourself as a reason to feel guilty or ignore the problem. But holding both can be totally possible! :)

      • I like that… Used by your self or someone else as a reason to ignore the problem. I mean what are we here for if not to think of others and leave a beautiful mark on the world. Your quite a lovely person Jennifer. Thank you so much for you offering and getting back to me so quickly!

  10. Yep, I think I mis-read the message behind your blog on the very first occasion that I noticed the title. However, I also read at least one post that day so, I quickly realised that you were actually very down-to-Earth with your thinking :-)

    I think this ‘pressure to be happy’ also applies to situations like Facebook, where people ‘only’ seem to share photos of the things that you wish you were doing, that you feel you should have, when you see them.

    I also find it hard to convince myself that life is ‘good’ all of the time. Yet, why is it so easy to believe that life is the complete opposite?

    • I agree about the pressure on Facebook. And about life, it is hard to feel like it’s good all of the time. I feel like I most think it’s good after something bad, like a car accident. That moment of “Woah I’m alive” makes me realize that every single thing about being alive is good..and there are some moments like that..but a lot of the time it is so hard! I guess that’s why it’s fun to try and change the way we see it so that at least if it’s not all “good” it’s at least always “interesting”. :)

  11. Honest. Brave. Like a sharp-minded bat out of its own hell, not running from that place of origin so much as flying for the mere pleasure of sharing the view. Extending its sights to all us other aimless bats. My, how I respect this Jennifer person.

    But also, more sincerely, I totally get you. I see your spirit in such parallel terms to my own deep uncharted territories. You’ve got a knack for keeping things real, woman. That’s uncommon anymore. And it’s sexy. Not like a come on, but more of a ‘going with’. Or something. I’m presuming you follow my freight-train thoughts.

    A hunch finds me, that this is part of your ability to snag such a captive audience. The humility you bring to the big kid table is part of your magical prowess. You don’t just have the know-how; you’re also keenly able to relate to all of us in the not-knowing-how. Brilliant. And tender.

    Aren’t we all a mixed bag? No one is impervious to self-doubt and despair. Except maybe Napoleon, but who’d want his legacy anyway?

    Ka-chshhh. That’s the sound of my palm against yours.

  12. Secondary thought…

    Enjoying life. Hmm. I love that you’ve addressed what this means to you. I dig it, and agree.

    It’s like this strange occurrence that happens to me everytime I get some bad news, or somebody pissed me off, or catches me off guard in a negative way; my whole life, I’ve had the most embarrassing physiological reaction — not of breaking down crying — but busting out laughing. Hysterically. Until tears are rolling down my face. (This is one major reason my husband insists I’m clinically insane. I don’t argue. But anyway.)

    After all these years, even as a woman, I cannot deduce the reason for this, nor can I overcome the behavior. It is almost primal. So completely inappropriate, and humiliating, and inexplicable, and totally uncontrollable. I’m sure there’s a blog lying beneath all that. But still.

    My point is that maybe there’s nothing wrong with reacting to the immensities of pain however we do.

    Maybe it’s healthy to laugh if it hurts, or cry if it hurts. Just embrace what is real, however you feel, and allow the emotion to happen.

    Running from pain isn’t happiness. Feeling pain — as strange as it sounds — is, in its own certain way, enjoying life.

    I love your brain.

    • And I love yours! I’m sure there is a blog in there somewhere, or perhaps not, but it’s such a perfect clear cut way to illustrate that point that embracing what is real is real, and that’s the only thing to really do, really, right? I love how you said it. Feeling the pain is exactly YES. Like a picture my sister just sent me of Bob Dylan, and it says “Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.”

  13. I was thinking about your question regarding whether one would want to be an internet sensation. My choice would be no. I don’t think I could handle popularity on a large scale…and I don’t think…on a bigger scale…that the human in general can handle fame…it seems to destroy us.

    • That is quite interesting. I was thinking a lot today about numbers versus unnumbered things. It’s not exactly the same, but similar- fame in lots of ways is numbers, and then there’s a reality around it that’s harder to judge because it would be different per person..often times, to some extent, rather destructive perhaps..

      • Yes, different for each person. I tend to enjoy my quiet, or space…I find more energy away from large groups of people and enjoy one on one or very small groups. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those that get energized by large groups of people and enjoy the spotlight. These are generally the people we see on the Television or in movies or on stage…and even these folks that feed on outward attention seem to struggle with fame and fortune.

    • Awwww I will sometime, I need to find a creative way to do so. I am smiling on the inside though :) :) :) and so honored! I need to seriously get down to business on those. I made a vow to a Unicorn pinata once that yellow would be my favorite color for forever since that was the color of its mane and it would be shattered on my birthday. I sort of forgot about it for years until reading your post and seeing that yellow is your favorite color too!

  14. Jenn this is incredible. I feel we are blogging soul mates. :-) You give new words and insight to the thoughts that live in my head. I’ve been wanting to write about this recently.

    That pressure to be happy i’m sure is what is at the root of so much unhappiness. A belief that we can and should be constantly happy. It’s unattainable. You are so right about American culture. Austalia is the same. My husband is Austrian Dutch and where he’s from people don’t expect to love their jobs. A job is a job. They may seem grumpy but their pragmatism leads to a greater level of satisfaction.

    Dancing in the rain. Enjoyment and contentment is learning to live with pain and difficulty.

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  18. Thank you for liking my blog post, Jennifer, and I really like what I’ve read of your blog so far. I agree completely: if we are living something less than a spectacular life and aren’t blissfully happy there must be something wrong. Our parents certainly didn’t worry about this as much as we do, and I think it has a lot to do with what we’re fed in the media. Add to it the connectivity to everything, and we’re bombarded with messages about what we are “not”. Nice post! :-)

    • I’m so glad you liked it! I was happy to find yours today in my moments of blog-reading time. I have yet to write anything about the tragedy and I’m not sure that I will, but I am glad that so many wordpressers are sharing their feelings, truths, and opinions on the topic. I feel like we have greater chances of holding onto honest truth and clarity even with the crazy media when we have these great places to express ourselves. Thank you for coming by!

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