I’m [Not] on the Pursuit of Happiness

…and other random/scattered thoughts on self love, purpose, humanity, and disappointment.

There’s a certain kind of strange liberation in knowing there’s something you really, really want that you know you’ll never have.

Its…a masochistic kind. Because you sense a feeling of realness in your pain, a type of infinity that you’ll likely never experience if you indeed did get what you desired.

We think the human experience should be relegated to happiness. I think this limits us. To know sadness, to know emptiness, to know defeat, to know loneliness, to know frustration, to know anger, to know rejection….its an amalgamation of our composite strength, it gives us painful but important art through which others can also feel their own downheartedness. An art that can be dangerous as its often romanticized — its NOT to say we should seek out misery. But its more to say we shouldn’t only seek out the antonyms of misery — happiness; ecstasy. For instance — how often is one’s fight against injustice a “happy” experience? Liberating, yes. Fulfilling, yes. But happy? We know we will find disappointment in other humans and in ourselves when we find ourselves depending on others far more than we know we should. The part of my journey that ironically heartens me is seeing how strong my heart has become through the amount of disappointment it has learned to anticipate and withstand.

But the most heartened I feel is knowing that no human, no matter how hurtful or disappointing they will be, will ever take away the one thing I am proud of: my empathy, my newfound resolve to fight for justice, through the fight against [hate], not just the fight for [love]. In times of sickness, rejection, fear, bigotry — I have me, myself, and I — the wonderfully confident, intelligent, empathetic, poetic, wacky soul that is me.

I worry a lot as to whether or not the world will also one day uncover this about me. I wonder if I can use these traits to dedicate my life to generating the most amount of good in a utilitarian sort of way. I find the former to be a selfish concern in ways, the latter more noble. But nevertheless, I will continue to fight, as countless others have, who died unknown, who lived lives of unspeakable torment, who persevered and toiled for the fight for others to never experience the same. I feel guilty of this. That no matter how ‘POC’ I am, no matter how ‘woman’ I am, I have lived a life of relative privilege in so many ways that others cannot. Case in point: only a pretty privileged person can have the audacity to write a “happiness isn’t everything” piece.

I think that what’s different between me and who I was six years ago is that I might have written this piece in vain, a self righteous post about my own “nobility” to distract myself from my true pain at that moment — some stupid heartbreak over some unworthy dude, most likely. Even if I have a heartbreak now over such a dumb thing, I would still write this with sincerity. And if I didn’t have such a heartbreak, I would write this with sincerity. As I have been. As I will continue to. To be bold and restless in the face of people being annoyed or inconvenienced (that favorite word of mine that’s held me back for so long — the thought of inconveniencing society’s institutionally endorsed people). This is who I am.

Kashmiris. Palestinians. Asylum seekers. Black Americans. Indigenous Americans. Uighurs. Rohingyas. Adivasis.

Christchurch’s hills. Dehradun’s shimmering lights. Sights of Verrazano Narrows from the Staten Island ferry.

Classic Hindi music ringing nostalgically in my ears. Memories of visiting Nilgiri Apartments in Alaknanda — where I lived when I was one — after 27 years. The face of my late Dadi seen in a young woman for a brief moment. India…..always, always India.

I don’t know how to explain it, but the “infinite” moments I have experienced throughout my life, both good and bad, have partially liberated me from humanity’s more trivial grievances — the nights we are kept up late not because of injustice and iniquity, but because of notification-less Whatsapps, non-responses from a romantic interest, ‘FOMO’ from feeling like the whole world’s at the same party without you.

I’m not on the pursuit of happiness. I’m on the pursuit of infinity. Of non-manufactured knowledge. Of wisdom and truth. Of collected lessons to pass down to my younger sister. Of a noble but ugly fight for restorative justice. Of a life well-traveled, not just through countries, but through books, songs, thoughts, and writings.

And I dare anyone to try to take that away from me. Humans will always find a way to disappoint and hurt me. To make me close the door of my room behind me, lean back against it, close my eyes, and let out a deep sigh. To make me talk of “going off of society’s grid”. To prompt me to write things like this, late at night, when I should be asleep.

But I have uncovered a way to be “invincible”, as it were. And it is through my self love, my self respect, the fight I have not just for others, but for myself — my existential battle to grow even more confident, even more boldly outspoken, even more daring. I realize now that I fight for myself every single day, in different ways. Every day that I prevent myself from saying negative things about my accomplishments (those both on paper and off). Every day that I sacrifice something I want that I know is no good for me. Every day that I aim to be kind and forgiving and empowering others of their own dreams. Every day that I stay true to my passion(s). Its not been easy. I accept the nonlinearity— I will regress, I will jump leaps and bounds, I will plateau, and then start the evolutionary process of self love all over again. I accept that things will not be black and white, as much as I want it to be. There’s some weird beauty in the grayness as well, I suppose.

There are so many days where I can’t bear it anymore. The evilness of humans. The racism, the misogyny, and all the ‘isms’ in between I’ve witnessed not only on television sets coming from the mouth of the U.S. President, but from my peers, and in my own relationships. I’ve spent so much of my life wallowing over this, and I don’t think I can fully say I still don’t do this. I sometimes don’t want to live among other humans anymore, in a Dr. Manhattan from The Watchmen, sort of way.

But I think the sadness has turned into anger, and I hope to continue channeling it in a way that speaks truth to power, to challenge others’ unacceptable and dangerous apathy, and to be unapologetically me for the first time in my life. Retaining that purposeful, channeled anger is any day more important to me than happiness, which I’m starting to feel is one of the most superficial emotions one can experience.

I will do this. I am in this ‘til the end. No matter how long, painful, ugly, and lonely this journey may be. My 11:11s, blown off eyelashes, and blown out birthday cake candles will forever be for the realization of this cause — the cause of alleviating human suffering. Even if it means I can’t (or simply don’t) alleviate my own.

hey young world, the world is yours

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