On being happy while wishing I wasn’t *here*.

The following was a bout of mental diarrhea that I unleashed on good friends. Fear was stopping me from sharing it on here, but then I realized that 1) I’m having a hard time posting every day (something I want to do) and at the very least, it’ll help with that goal; and 2) I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t post it. So here it is.

I was going to write a blog post about how much I hate it here – but
that’s not entirely true. I don’t really hate it here. I just hate
certain clashes between myself and Filipino culture – and, honestly,
those clashes would be more or less ameliorated if I had more money.
The Philippines is funny that way. Have enough in your wallet, and you
can safely call someone’s mom a whore.

No, it’s not here, per se, that I hate. There’s just something
that’s in the air that’s making me feel uncomfortable. It hit, like 3
hours ago, when I was writing fiction, and it’s only grown as I tried
to study, got a headache, got into a fight with Rob, and started
fantasizing about a friend’s ex-boyfriend.

Let me back up.

The story I’ve been working on has kind of been my salvation on days
when I really loathe my decision of moving out here. It’s the story of
three generations of a Filipino/Filipino-American family, and their
take on the American Dream. Each of them encounters something that
makes them “settle” for a less-than-stellar version of their goal,
i.e., The grandma stays married to a man who constantly cheats on her
(read: not really fictional, this story.), and yet finds ways to “be
happy.” And that right there is the question I pose in the story (and
also the question I was going to pose in the blog post): Is it
possible to really be happy if you don’t like your situation?

At the crux of this question is the idea of happiness and what it
entails. Is it something purely from within? Is it something that
depends, at least partly, on circumstance? If the former is true, then
is happiness something that certain people have a natural inclination
towards? Or is it learned? And if it’s learned, then doesn’t that mean
that it depends (at least in a round-about way) on circumstance, thus
making the latter true?

I can go on for a while with this line of thinking…

Anyway, I realized as I was writing the blog post that every day, I
make myself happy. Now, that sentence alone tells me a couple things:
1) I’m not naturally happy, 2) My happiness is up to me.

I realized as I was writing the blog post that what makes me happy is
the belief that I’m improving myself so that once I get to Real Life
aka The States and everything that is in accordance with my values and
belief systems, I’ll be able to live a more fulfilled, successful and
happy life. This right here? It’s only a pit-stop. And that fact? The
fact that I’m not really living the life I want – at least right now –
makes me truly unhappy. I’m just a shadow of my real self. I don’t get
to show all my colors, because the Philippines is a monotone place
where no one can see my colors. As much as I explode rainbows, it goes
unacknowledged and unappreciated and this makes me feel like my energy
is being wasted and my value is being demeaned.

(I hate to degrade this amazing opportunity to learn about my culture,
learn more about myself, et al, but that’s what I’ve come to view my
time here as: a necessary and dreadful pit-stop on my journey to
becoming who I want to be.)

So. Now. Back to the fiction-writing.

This was all percolating in my head as I was writing, and that’s when
my friend’s ex made an appearance in the story. Because, really?
He’s everything that Rob isn’t, aka he’s the improved version of my
partner. He’s charismatic. He commands the respect and attention of
crowds. He’s learned and intellectual and has a better grasp on the
English language than Rob has – even though English isn’t his first
language. And he has this air of integrity. Maybe that’s all it is –
maybe it’s just air, smoke and mirrors and whatnot – but I can feel
it, whatever it is. Character. Virtue. This is what draws me in. This
sense that he knows what he’s doing, that he’s guided by an idea of
what he knows is right, and that his belief system closely resembles
my own. I can feel all this, and all of a sudden there’s a new
character in the fiction story – one that the mom has an affair with
after the dad moves back to New York – and I can’t help but wonder: Am
I writing my future? Am I going to make this happen?

After I got into the fight with Rob (which was caused because I’d
asked him to watch Riley, and he just played video games while Riley
kept trying to head-butt me as I nursed my headache), I couldn’t help
but fantasize. Not about my friend’s ex, really. But about a man.
A man who knows what he’s doing. A man who doesn’t need me to teach
him how to be. A man who eats even when he doesn’t have company. A man
who doesn’t ask me to go with him downstairs so we can “be together”
when really, that’s what he means: He wants us to be next to each
other, even though he knows damn well that I have four chapters of
dense material to study.

And I don’t know. I just don’t know what this all means. I just know
that when it comes to living in the Philippines and being in a
relationship with Rob, I make myself happy, and a part of me wishes
that wasn’t the case. I wish I was just happy. No elaboration or
work necessary. Just happy.

I wonder if that’s possible, though. Can people just be happy? Or is
it the potential for something better that’s really the catalyst for
happiness? If a static life is a happy one, then why do we aspire to
change our circumstances?… And that’s where the fiction story just
keeps going and going…

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2 responses to “On being happy while wishing I wasn’t *here*.

  1. Happiness doesn’t just occur. It is a learned effort. Some happiness can spurn about on its own, but its usually the by-product or bonus of some action, measure, stand, whatever that you’ve already taken. And that’s okay. As much as we all want to be happy for the sake of being happy, the things that are truly worthwhile are worth working for. You may reach a place in your life where you are unabashedly and unapologetically happy without having to do the work all the time to sustain it, but you’re always going to have to work to get there.

    As for the “fictional” character being happy, is your character truly happy? She may be finding things in her life to be happy about, but is her overall being/existence a happy one? And if she is really happy despite her circumstances, that isn’t impossible. Happiness is a learned behavior, and can be created. It goes back to that idea of having to work for it. If you make a concerted effort to be happy, you can do so, even if the circumstances of your life don’t seem to call for it. I think the reason this idea seems so novel to people of our generation is because everyone now is used to being honest, used to allowing themselves to be unhappy and have everyone know about it. There’s no shame in that now, or not as much. People of past generations were learned to put on their best “fake-it” faces. That’s just how they got through. Heaven forbid you had a decent life that wasn’t up to your standards and you weren’t happy about it. Then, you were just selfish.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Christina!!! So much here to comment on!

    You’re totally right about the differences between past generations and ours when it comes to their outlook on life and happiness. While I still stand behind all the feelings that I talked about before (and I’m still hashing them out in my fiction writing), I’ve come to the conclusion that happiness is indeed what you make of it. Filipinos, for example, are pretty much happy no matter their circumstances, and that’s basically because they believe that happiness isn’t made of much. Their standards are different from my own, and I guess in order to fully accept and be happy with what I’ve got, I’d have to adopt a similar perspective. That particular perspective isn’t exactly congruent to your idea of working for happiness; some people’s mindsets are such that they’re happy with what they’ve got, whether or not they’ve worked for it.

    On another note: About my friend’s ex? I realized a few days after I posted this that I don’t want Rob to be like him. My friend’s ex is a lot like my dad, and while I wouldn’t want to be with anyone like my dad (for.so.many.reasons!), it’s an archetype that I’m familiar with and know how to deal with, so in some ways it’s easier than Rob, which is probably why it crossed my mind in the first place. Strange, the clarity that comes with time and introspection. XO-M

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