When I was 20, my front yard was the Gulf of Mexico. I would walk onto the shoreline almost daily to bask in the beauty of the beach, go running, check out girls, suntan, or swim. When I was done, I would simply walk back to my house.
To make things seemingly more perfect, I had absolutely nothing to worry about at this point in my life. There were very few problems. I had money, people to hang out with, access to drugs and alcohol, and all the necessities. The only thing I didn’t have was true happiness.
Honestly, I was miserable. I was really sad. At the time I couldn’t figure out why but looking back, it has become increasingly obvious to me. I imagine that others might have similar experiences, maybe not living at the beach necessarily, but questioning why they are unhappy when it would seem like they shouldn’t be. I want to share what I have discovered about my unhappiness in hopes that this resonates with others, who can apply my observations to their own lives.
I have discovered true joy that rings out beautifully even during sad and difficult moments. I want others to have this experience, as life is too short and meaningful for us to be without it.
But first, a clarification about sadness. It is a beautiful emotion that is normal and good to express at certain moments, especially in moments of loss and grief. The type of sadness that I was experiencing was caused by loss, yes, but it was the loss of my true self brought about by the terrible choices I was making.
I brought about my own sorrow and misery and the sadness I was experiencing could and should be avoided. While some have a chemical imbalance in their brain or other very real and physical reasons for sadness and depression, mine was avoidable. I was fortunate in that I could fix it and I believe there are many others who can do the same. So, here are the observations I have now as to why I was stuck in such a rut.
- I was selfish.
I truly acted like I was the protagonist in everyone’s story. It didn’t even cross my mind to think of how my actions were impacting others. I never did anything to hurt anyone physically and I still respected boundaries when asked to do so, however, I often would put my own comfort and pleasure over others.
Focusing only on myself and what would bring me pleasure ironically only brought me the opposite. Misery. It ruptured friendships which brought about isolation. I held a “why me?” attitude whenever anything went wrong and saw the cause of all my problems as coming from others. What’s worse is that the selfishness blinded me from seeing the havoc it was wreaking in my life.
2. I was ungrateful.
I simply did not appreciate the good things that I had in life. I only focused on the negative. I could see the beauty in the Florida scenery and enjoy fleeting moments of pleasure but held a cynical attitude of dissatisfaction.
I could not see how good I had it. I only saw the things I wish were better. This in turn brought about bitterness, which in turn only made me less grateful and more selfish.
3. I was wrong about my purpose.
I mistakenly believed that there was only a physical dimension to life and that I was meant to spend my days bringing about pleasure and avoiding pain. It’s odd that this is a commonly held belief, because it truly causes more pain, but I lived it out as my number one mission in life. I never put it together that the greater good would require sacrifice, that self-denial made my life better, or even that there is a spiritual element in life and that suffering can be a source of grace.
I misunderstood that my purpose was not for me to feel good, but to do good. I focused on superficial aspects of life, which were extremely shallow, and my heart, which truly was seeking for the deep inner beauty of life, was unsatisfied. The incorrect mission that I was pursuing was leaving me empty and I was only growing sadder because of it.
All three of these together were like a perfect storm for despair and misery. It was impossible for me to be happy because I was misusing myself and others. The life I was living was not what I was meant for.
If an iPhone is misused as a hockey puck, it would obviously break. So too did I misunderstand what human life is meant to be about. Consequently, I misused my life and it left me broken and unable to have the happiness that naturally comes with following the directions.
Thankfully, God entered my life. He led me to find the directions, He gave me direction, and now my happiness is not fixed to my experiences or environment. I have grown to be selfless and grateful, which have amazing effects on my attitude toward myself and others. I now know the right purpose I am meant to pursue, and it brings with it a lasting satisfaction.
In short, today, nothing can keep me from being happy. Yes, there is still sadness. There is still stress and difficulties. Serious difficulties. However, the joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy that I find in life now goes beyond simple emotion and how I respond to things. Now, happiness is a permanent fixture in my life and for that I am incredibly grateful.