On the Pursuit of Happiness, Capitalistically

I was having dinner with a friend the other night when he told me, “I realized something the other day. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I haven’t done anything that I don’t want to in months.”

Such a simple statement and yet such a stunning revelation.

I believe we can all agree that happiness is a mental state of contentment or joy (definition taken from multiple sources, combined into this definition, therefore no sourcing). My purpose in life is to achieve happiness. And yet you’ll notice that it is still a goal, so elusive that it has grown and dwarfed other life goals.

“I want to be happy” is a great statement, but “I am happy” is a better one. The best one.

But how?

One of my biggest quibbles with Eat, Pray, Love was that the author struck me as so vapid and vain. You have everything! my inner voice shrieked at her as I struggled to make it through the Eat section. You’re crying on your bathroom floor and you’re an idiot! I was venting that exact thought about the book to someone a generation older than me, and she commented that most of the people in their twenties who read that book had a similar reaction. And yet, she told me that it all made a great deal of sense to her.

I still don’t sympathize with the author, but I do see that she may have had a point. It’s easy to think that success and good standing and security and stability and all of the trappings of the American Dream will equal bliss, joy, unencumbered happiness.

And yet, the radiant life we’ve been buying into isn’t real. The tattered remnants of the American Dream are still scattered across my hopeful vision of the future, and in buying into the promise that it too might happen to you, if only you work hard enough, or do any number of things, you’ve lost the ability to ever achieve happiness.

It’s the twisted American Dream — you work to get somewhere, something and yet once you arrive, you’re reminded that it’s not enough. If only you do this. Or buy that. Or wear your hair a certain way. Or take these 7 simple suggestions.  It will never be enough.


Happiness has become the most salable commodity we’ve got. Trafficking in happiness is about as ridiculous as the rationale behind bottled water, and yet, I bet you’ve purchased bottled water at least a dozen times in your life or purchased something guaranteed to make you happier.

You’re being resold something that was already yours to begin with. Your happiness is not dependent on anything external. And yet, the marketing geniuses have found a way to play into our deepest desires and craft their messages to suit their needs, rather than our own. (Although, I will admit that my happiness levels drastically increase when I’m in possession of fabulous mascara.)

And I bet you’re still trying to buy back your own damn happiness. I know I am. It’s been repackaged, repriced, redesigned. I’m trying to pay it off, slowly accruing interest, never quite reaching the “Paid in Full” designation, but that’s by design.

My friend is onto something. He stopped doing what he didn’t want to do.

Happiness is everywhere you look. It is attainable. Because it’s right there.

Happiness is my front porch after work, a cold beer, a cat on a leash, the sprinkler on, a book in my hand, feet up on the porch railing, an expanse of greening lawn between my toes and the street. That snapshot is what happiness is.

Happiness is the open road, blue skies, low-hanging wisps of clouds, a radio station that actually works (and isn’t playing country music), and no one in front of you.

Happiness is satisfaction after I’ve mowed the front lawn (badly). Happiness is finding out that they’re happy to put extra pineapple in your pineapple curry if you don’t want veggies or chicken. Happiness is house sauce. (Can you tell I had Thai this week? The hostess greeted me so warmly – “We haven’t seen you in so long! Let me take you to the table you like!” and I was embarrassed at not having been there in a few months. I missed them.)

Happiness is itself a reprieve from the struggle for happiness, but it’s hard to see unless you’ve stepped back far enough to see everything. So my advice – to myself, of course – for the now and coming future is to stop buying into the idea that I’m never going to make it to Destination Happy and start making it myself.

(If it’s a business plan that works for Dasani, it’s a life plan that’s going to work for me. I too can take tap water and turn it into millions of happy moments. And/or dollars.)   😉


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