Paradoxes of Happiness: the Sadness of a Happiness Project
Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 8, 2013
I think everyone could benefit from ahappiness project.
But there’s also a sad side to a happiness project, which comes directly from the first and most important of my Twelve Commandments: “Be Gretchen.”
Being Gretchen, and accepting my true likes and dislikes, means that I have to face the fact that I will never want to visit a jazz club at midnight or pack up to go fly-fishing on a spring dawn. I love diet soda and refuse to try foie gras.
Now, you might think – “Well, okay, but why does that make you sad? You don’t want to visit a jazz club at midnight anyway, so why does it make you sad to know that you don’t want to do that? If you wanted to, of course you could.”
It makes me sad for two reasons. First, it makes me sad to realize my limitations. The world offers so much!–and I’m too small to appreciate it. The joke in law school was: “The curse of Yale Law School is to try to die with your options open.” Which means — at some point, you have to pursue one option, which means foreclosing other options, and to try to avoid that is crazy. Similarly, to be Gretchen means to let go of all the things that I am not — to acknowledge what I don’t encompass.
But it also makes me sad because, in many ways, I wish I were different. One of my Secrets of Adulthood is “You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.” I have a lot of notions about what I wish I liked to do, of the subjects and occupations that Iwish interested me. But it doesn’t matter what I wish I were like. I am Gretchen.
Now, you might say again, “Why does all this make you sad? Rejoice in what you are; be authentic,” etc., etc. But it does make me feel sad sometimes.