A lot of folks out there want to have their own “happily ever after.” That’s why a lot of media ends with a “happily ever after,” or at least some form of it so that the audience can live vicariously through the character to get some form of satisfaction.
In a sense, that’s probably why most people hate open-ended endings. They don’t want to think about it, they just want some sort of reassurance that life isn’t horrible sometimes. Sometimes, people want to believe that others live happily ever after when they get what they want.
That’s the narrative we are all led to believe. You live your life, find a nice partner, fall in love, and live happily ever after.
Because, otherwise, there’s no point in life. Because life, frankly, sucks.
Obviously, most people would tell you the opposite. You live happily ever after because you found peace with yourself, that you are content with who you are and that you’ve found what you enjoy doing to make the most out of your limited time on earth.
But as a person who is content with who he is, where he is, and what he has achieved, I can tell you that I am not living a happily ever after.
I’m not saying that I’m not happy. I’m very happy with everything I’ve done in life. If I were to (touch wood) die tonight, I think I would die happy knowing that I’ve done all I wanted to do. I have no outstanding arguments, I’m leaving no one wronged, and I don’t really have any unfinished business. All in all, I’m very satisfied with myself, who I am, and what I’ve done.
But I’m still not living a happily ever after.
Everybody wants to be happy, I reckon. That’s probably the one biggest motivators for every single human being. We do a lot of things just to feel a momentary sensation of joy or satisfaction. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we seem to live in a constant state of happiness, where one day seems to be better than the next. Or where nothing is wrong and you can go through the motions of life perfectly fine.
Sometimes you don’t know that you’re perfectly happy with yourself and your situation until it’s taken from you. Looking back, you finally notice how happy you were. Or maybe, you find yourself humming a nice song in the middle of the day, and you are struck with a realization of how far you’ve come and how you’re so much happier than you were before.
All of us want to be happy. It’s almost human nature, this desire. We are born with the ingrained knowledge of laughter.
But most of us also are born into this world crying.
A friend of mine once told me that the only constant in life is that you are sad. You wait for a wave of happiness to sweep through you and then once it’s all calm, everything’s sad again. Rinse and repeat.
The Good Place says that humans are aware that we will all die one day, so we’re all a little bit sad all the time.
I don’t really agree with either of those statements. We know we are going to die, but that’s a given. Why be sad over something we can never change? We can’t change the situation, but we can change the way we look at things. Sure, we’ll die, but we still have so much time left before we go. We can do so many things to give us purpose and make us happy.
Cats and dogs know they’re going to die, but they don’t live every day “a little bit sad,” do they?
But, somehow, I do agree that we are always just “a little bit sad.” Even though I was living a great life, finishing a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in four years while others struggle to even get through university, I felt a little bit sad.
Maybe it was because I was stepping out of the closed, organized bubble of academia, where everything is planned for me and all I had to do was follow orders and I’ll succeed. Knowing that the “real world,” as they say, is so much more chaotic and undefined scared me and so I longed for organization and pre-determined paths once more.
Or maybe it was because academia is all I knew. From the age of three years old, you’re taken to school. You go to school until you’re either 18 or 22, depending on whether or not you go through university, and some even stay in academia (either for a master’s or a doctorate) until they’re as old as 40. That’s a big chunk of your life following one single path and one single environment. Sure, there are differences between each stage (kindergarten, primary school, secondary school, and university), but they’re more or less the same. You show up, sit down, listen for a bit, and then do what the person standing at the front of the room tells you to do.
A lot of situations that require you to make decisions are either done for you or someone guides you through it. Outside of academia, no one is really there to help you. They tell you to go find a job and start earning money, but they don’t really tell you how to get one or how to survive. Even now, at almost half a year into this contract job, I have no idea what the hell I’m doing and what taxes are.
I can say that it’s the uncertainty that makes me a little bit sad. Losing a big chunk of what I grew up knowing and everything I’m familiar with to step out into this big scary world where every adult seems more like an adult than me… It’s scary and it makes me sad knowing that I can never go back to how it was.
In a way, that’s true. I doubt anyone is ever ready to “become an adult,” as they say. No matter how old you are, you still feel like you’re a fish out of water. You have no idea what’s going on and you just do things in a way that kind of works until someone that seems more capable comes along to either validate you or correct you.
In a couple of months, I will have graduated for a year. Yet I have no idea what I’m doing as an “adult” and, honestly, I’m not even sure if I want to be working in such a hectic office lifestyle.
But at the same time, I know that this longing isn’t for something familiar or stable. Yes, change scares me and I wish things would never change, but that’s childish and wishful thinking. Everything changes, every day. Nothing remains static. Either you change with it, or you stay stuck in the past and watch as everyone else around you grow and leave you behind.
No, being adaptive and constantly going with the flow keeps me – keeps all of us – afloat. So, what am I missing? What am I so sad about? What am I longing for?
Well, after this summer, I understand that all I’m missing in life is a partner.
I’m not sure if it’s conditioned in us, as a species, to long for a partner. Maybe it is since that’s key to the survival of our species, but I’ve seen people out there who are happy that they are alone.
Many have told me that if you aren’t happy single, you won’t be happy in a relationship. That’s a piece of very general advice for those who long for a significant other. While I understand the sentiment, given that I have always expressed the desire to find a girlfriend while people, in general, are under the impression that I loathe who I am, I don’t think it applies to me.
Again, since graduating with my bachelor’s and leaving the U.K., I’ve been quite happy. Even the last year of my time in the U.K. was a mostly happy one. I found my purpose, for a little while, and I made a good friend. Knowing that I never have to go back to that little retirement town fueled my desire to be happier, have a slightly different outlook on the situation I landed myself in, and I genuinely cannot be more glad that things went the way they did.
Sure, it was hell, but without that hell, how am I supposed to have learned all the lessons that I did? How am I to grow as a person and understand that, sometimes, things change and are out of our control?
But there’s one gaping hole in my life. I knew it was there before and it’s still here now. I wanted someone I can confide in. Someone who is my best friend, who loves me as much as I love them, who can anticipate my needs as I can anticipate theirs. Someone who will be by my side, even when things are tough. Someone who is willing to fight for me, even if things aren’t looking so bright. Someone I can trust, someone who trusts me. Someone whose eyes contain the universe if I look for it.
I’ve held off this pursuit for as long as I can. I knew, even when I was happy, that I can never be with someone no matter how interested they are in me. On one hand, I wasn’t interested in any of them and it wouldn’t be fair for me to waste their time. On the other, I knew I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t satisfied with who I was.
I knew I was missing one thing at that time and without it, I can’t be the best version of myself for them. I guess that’s what people are waiting for nowadays. Being the best versions of themselves before they commit to anyone else. I suppose, after all this time, this is what people meant by “being happy with yourself.”
And I suppose I’m just a tad bit impatient. I want my happily ever after. I wrote before about the difference between getting what you want and finding what you need, and how I have finally gotten what I wanted. After floating around aimlessly, I wonder if what I need is actually heartfelt companionship – someone who understands me.
Surely, it makes sense. My biggest fear is being lonely. Even after leaving the U.K., where I thought was the cause of my chronic loneliness, I still suffered from bouts. Obviously, I have friends and family here at home, so I never get to really think about how lonely I am.
But something happened. I lost someone prematurely and all of a sudden, my daily conversations dwindled to momentary text exchanges. It made me realize how deeply lonely I truly am. Nothing about the environment affected that. The problem stems from within.
There’s this terrible yearning for someone who understood me. Someone who I can have a meaningful and actual emotional connection with. I suppose while I am happy with myself, I am not happy by myself. But can I really be faulted for that? After all, weren’t we raised to want a happily ever after with someone who loves us?
All I’m asking is, where is my happily ever after?
But I suppose a happily ever after doesn’t just come waltzing into your life. You fight for your happily ever after. Sometimes the happily ever after you get isn’t the one that you’ve always dreamed of. You mold it into one, or maybe you just compromise and accept that, sometimes, some dreams are just dreams. Not everything can come true, no matter how hard you believe in it.
That’s why we’re always a little bit sad. The yearning of something we don’t have, or once did but now lost. Meeting someone you like, or perhaps even loved, at the wrong time. You’re left with thoughts of “what if”s, thinking that maybe if you just did one thing right, your fantasies won’t just live in your head. Maybe if you were just a little bit more patient, or if you tried a little bit harder… Then you’ll have your happily ever after.
But relationships are a two-way street. As long as one person doesn’t want it, it doesn’t matter how hard the other person tries. That’s just the reality of it.
So if you want to live happily ever after, don’t force it. Try hard, but if the situation wants to go, you have to let it go. Maybe when the time is right, you’ll finally be able to achieve it.
There’s no time limit on having a happily ever after, as much as it hurts to wait. I guess that’s just part of being human.