It kind of sucks when you realize that happiness can only come from within. No amount of success, money, or weight you lose will make you happy. Sure, maybe money troubles add extra anxiety to your life, and maybe if you fit into those jeans, you would feel better about yourself. But accomplishing those things won’t inherently make you happy. If you’re miserable in your current situation, and find external forces to blame (like I do), then you’ll still be miserable when you’re flying to Bermuda on your private jet, wearing your size 0 jeans.
For all of my life, I told myself I’d be happy “when…”. In middle school, it was when I got better grades. In high school, it was when I got into a good college. In college it was when I lost 20 pounds. And after college it was when I had more romantic endeavors. I call them endeavors because I’m fancy, and don’t care if my experiences don’t really count as “endeavors”.
I accomplished a lot of the things I told myself would make me happy. I got into a great college, I lost a good amount of weight, and I even (mom, close your eyes) kissed a few people. And every time I looked in a mirror and acknowledged my accomplishments, it only made me sadder. Here I was, finally fitting into those jeans, finally attending a great school…so why wasn’t I happy?
When I met my goals and my happiness switch didn’t immediately get turned on…what a bummer.
It’s like your whole life, someone is telling you there’s a button you can press that will make you happy, but it’s all the way at the top of a mountain. You spend months trekking up, holding your own against the harsh weather conditions. You get excited when you see the button peaking out from behind a tree. You sprint up, press it, and nothing happens. Somehow, you’re sadder than you were at the beginning of your journey, because you realize the button doesn’t do anything. It’s not even connected to a power source.
I do stand-up comedy, and I’ve consistently told myself I’d be happier when I started booking more shows. I book the amount of shows I used to say would make me happy, and now I’ve increased the minimum requirement. And even if, in 10 years, I’m selling out theaters across the country, I will be sad when I realize the number of tickets I sold didn’t make me happy. I’m probably better right now, when I can still kind of hope that my success is the answer.
Last night I had a harsh realization. No matter what ends up happening for me in comedy, whether I become super successful or not, I can still find a reason to be miserable.
10 years down the line, I’m traveling across the world, making a good living off of comedy. And then I pop into an open mic where I see these undiscovered talents. The girl whose writing is so clever that she must have had a man help her (okay, sorry. Had to throw a joke in. This has been a little too serious and depressing). Why am I successful when this brilliant woman is struggling to make ends meet? I don’t deserve this success.
Or, 10 years down the line, I see my friends get their own Netflix specials, get on SNL, and have millions of followers on social media, which I have already witnessed to a small degree, while I’m still trying to get the bartender at my weekly show to remember that I have that space booked every Friday, and have for the past 5 years, so “please let me in. It’s cold outside”.
Maybe the young comic who I showed around Chicago when they were brand new will ask me to open for their special. Obviously I won’t turn that down…if you want me to open for you, I’m happy to.
I think I’m hilarious. An undiscovered talent. I’m funnier than half the people with their own specials. But some outside source is holding me back from my success. Guess what? I’m still not happy! Maybe I’m the girl who successful-me walked into that night at an open mic and thought was so clever she must’ve had a man help her.
So if being successful won’t make me happy, and neither will believing myself to be extraordinarily talented, then what’s the point? Why am I pursuing the very thing that makes me question my self-worth on a daily basis?
Does the act of performing make me happy? I do have a lot of fun on stage. Or maybe it’s the amazing friends I’ve made in Chicago comedy (you’re so vain you probably think this is about you, and it probably is). But what am I working towards if not success?
Maybe I should focus on being happy first, before I worry about success. Maybe I should spend more time sitting on the floor of my friends’ bare-bones apartments, trying to convince myself that the stain I’m sitting on is just spilled juice. That’s when I’m the happiest.
So, I don’t know where I want to be in 5 or 10 years. But I know that tonight I want to be happy.
What is everyone doing later? Can I come? I’ll bring snacks.