Over the years, one can point to several instances of maturity that helped me develop into the man I am today. Of all these experiences and self-inflicted epiphanies, perhaps none were more effective in helping building my character than my ability to accept the happiness of others.
I have developed into a perfectionist. Every element of my life receives attention and is planned. As I type this, I sit in dusted and vacuumed room at a desk parallel to a closet. In this closet, my shirts are color coordinated and hung on the same hangers. My bed is made, my cat is brushed, and laundry is finished. I have my food prepped for tomorrow. I have my schedule written out for everything I’d like to accomplish by the end of the night. Bottom line is that my perfectionism has led me into a life of standards. I view everything as having a standard of perfection accompanied with a high degree of specificity. My biggest fault lies in the fact that, at one point, it was near impossible for me to provide recognition in anything that wasn’t to standard. That goes for myself and for others and can be witnessed in every aspect of life, most notably: happiness.
Over the years I have involuntarily created a set criterion that should yield ‘acceptable’ happiness. Hard work in school, concentration on self improvement, fulfillment of career goals, eating clean, and training dirty. Those were traits that I deemed acceptable to provide happiness for myself. My close-mindedness led me to hold others accountable to those standards. When I was in college, I thought that those who went out, partied, got drunk, did recreational drugs, and the like were all worthless and I largely looked down upon their fulfillment of happiness as being unacceptable. Everyone should be happy like me. Everyone should work hard for their money, take their vitamins, and say ‘I love you’ to their families as often as possible. How could one have to audacity to find happiness in anything other than that which made me happy?
Everything we do in life is aimed at happiness and fulfilling a satisfied mental equilibrium. I’d challenge anyone to refute that statement. Why do we eat? We eat because we’re hungry and it makes us happy to satisfy our hunger. We do we dress nice? We dress nice because it allows us to become beneficiaries of compliments, which makes us feel happy. Why do we procreate? We do this because it makes us happy by providing innumerable internal benefits as well as satisfying our natural urges. That said, it’s important to realize that every action, be it that of Mother Teresa or Charles Manson, is solely aimed at happiness. Happiness is subjective. That which makes us happy varies astronomically from person to person. At one point in high school I satisfied my happiness by loading up the washer with all the detergent I could find in the Home Ec room, laughing endlessly at the mess that ensued a few periods later. Nowadays, I satisfy that need by giving my all to the students I teach and the athletes I coach. If I were to look at my happiness fulfillment from yesteryear, there’s no way it would meet the standard of today. It took me over 20 years, but I finally realized it – you can’t hold others’ happiness to the same standard to which you hold your own.
Everyone wants to be happy, no doubt. If someone you know feels the need to quench their thirst for happiness by partaking in actions that my not live up to your standards then let it be. Sure, the actions of some may seem reckless and immoral, but morals are subjective as well. We need to understand that regardless of how vehemently we may disagree with one’s actions, they’re just fulfilling their need for happiness. We all mature and it simply takes some longer than others. Live and let live. Try to not be overly judgmental, but still offer some advice when you can. You can’t save the world but you can save yourself.