On Choosing Happiness But Not Always Getting It: A Moment of Honesty


Usually when I am about to publish a new piece here, I am sure that people are going to rock with it. I’m sure of my voice. Confident in how I’ve strung the words together. Certain that it is shareable, quotable and completely “on-brand”. Well today, I don’t know. I have no wit, no perfectly buttoned punch lines or cultural references---I only have my raw thoughts, feelings and fears. This is a safe space, right?

I hope so.


Here it goes…


When people see me, they often tell me how inspired they are by the things that they believe I do well. They beam with pride because I am going diligently after my dreams. They are motivated to write or to act or to simply pull the trigger on their own goals. And, for most people, this would be a cause for personal celebration or, at least, a pat on the back. For me; however, it goes in one ear and out of the other with all of my perceived failures and desires for more. It is not that these acknowledgments mean nothing to me but that I don’t (can’t) believe them. This goes far beyond practicing gratitude or writing down my achievements so that I can see how far I’ve come---this is a deep down inside nagging disappointment in myself that will not allow me to celebrate no matter how many podcasts I listen to/books I read/motivational speeches I hear. This is imposter syndrome on swole. This is “I’m doing my best but it doesn’t seem to matter” x 9 years in a city with limited family and only a few close friends wondering if it will all be worth it. This is daily rejection mixed with wanting to do what I love. This is feeling like God is sending my prayers to voicemail but praying without ceasing anyway because it’s all I know. This is having no time to process grief because after burying someone I love, I flew back across the country to audition for a project that I didn’t get. This is feeling invisible where it matters and yet too visible where it doesn’t matter at all. This is my “it’s a matter of when and not if” surety dwindling. This is me screaming internally for fear of not being the bright light people expect. This is me choosing happiness but finding that happiness, much like love or money, must move freely and not amount of desiring it can change that.

But who says that happiness is the only honorable and transformative emotion we can feel?

Right now, I’m afraid. I am anxious. I am sad. I am angry. These are the emotions that have chosen me. I am letting them each have their moment. Realizing that these feelings are only fleeting, I do not have to make a home out of them. But I do have to accept that they are just as valid as every i-am-so-happy-i-leave-glitter-everywhere-i-go feeling. They, too, are real. Even if my “brand” is ‘pushing through to joy’, I have to be as comfortable with writing in the darkness as I am once the light returns. I think I owe that to people who are inspired by me, for any reason, as much as to myself. Real life does not lend itself to only one color. You will not always be “happy” by definition. Sometimes, you’ll be lost. Other times you’ll be almost, not quite but something like satisfied with what you’ve accomplished and who you are. But, by in large, you will have moments of pure and utter disbelief at how far away all your dreams seem. You will feel trapped by circumstance and isolated by your purpose. You’ll cry so much that tears will seem futile. You will realize that happiness is not a monolith and can take subtle forms that will help you to keep going when things are rough. You will find a home in this, less performative, version of happiness and accept that is still powerful, still influential, still necessary because it is yours. It is not the commercialized product of happiness that gives others a temporary high---yours is a non-GMO, organic, forged by the fire offering of all that you have left to give.

And when that no longer fits, you’ll let it go too. Because you are learning to unravel, you won’t shy away from the coming back together that must be done out loud, in public spaces because this is how you live. This is how you hold God accountable. This is how you reason with the Universe that one of you must relent and assure it that you don’t plan to give up anytime soon.

And when all else fails…just rest.

What do you do to get back to happy? Share in the comments below!

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What do you do to get back to happy? Share in the comments below!

Iman Milner2 Comments