I’ve consumed way too many self-help books over the years. Psychology, philosophy, Buddhism, New Age, you name it, I’ve probably read it. I’ve devoured blogs and lurked in forums and I’ve tried to leech off all this promised good fortune/techniques for happiness, in a way to improve my life. In some ways, I’m sure it has. I’ve learned a few things here and there, and I credit Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff to curing my anger issues that I once had. But as of late, I feel like all these deep thoughts and advice aren’t actually helping me. Instead, I feel like they are hurting my mental health and creating a feedback loop that tells me that I’m not good enough and what I’m doing and how I’m feeling isn’t appropriate.
Thanks to the internet, everyone has a voice now and a lot of people are using their voices to tell you who you should be living. They’ll tell you their philosophy and techniques and a lot of us eat that shirt up. We go, “Yeah, I need a new notebook with 27 different dividers, and online subscription and a $100 e-course class on how to make a to-do list.” I shirt you not, I actually downloaded a book called The Checklist Manifesto. The book is 225 pages of how to make checklists and why you should make checklists. Seriously, what the forking fork?
We analyze, cross reference, segment, and compartmentalize every little detail of our lives in order to lives to the fullest, most productive, and supposedly, stress-free ways possible. We read books on getting things done, join groups about getting rid of things, and humble brag through social media of how much all this enriched our lives now that we have it altogether and can enjoy our vacations, super clean homes, and awesome new technology. And ya know what, it’s all bullshirt. It truly is. The majority of this advice is written by self-proclaimed life coaches/gurus/entrepreneurs/housewives. The other half is written by academics who spent the majority of their life in school and have no idea how the real problems of day-to-day life actually affect us here on the other side. That’s not to say they are completely clueless, I just don’t think either group is all that well equipped to advise me on how to live my life. I need someone I can relate to, who is like me, to just straight up tell me how to stress-less and be happier.
I once heard that you should never aspire to be happy, because our default feeling is not happiness, but contentment. No one is ever going to walk around happy all the time, but if you walk around content, you have a better chance of experiencing moments of happiness. I don’t know how much of that is true, but it sounds more reasonable than someone going around smiling non-stop. Of course, that’s not going to stop me from trying to be that smiling goofball.
I think back to my late teens/early twenties and I realize that I was happier in some ways than I am today. I didn’t worry so much about all the adult stuff. I didn’t stress 24/7 about my job, money, and rent. I just kinda kicked back and relaxed, played video games, and had fun. TV and music was hopeful and fun and not too deep. Things weren’t so grim all the time. People didn’t seem so fake. I didn’t feel the pull to join a side or have an opinion on everything. I just kinda existed and that was enough for me. I miss that, and that is the part of Brandon I’m trying to find again.