Art featured by Mikyung Lee
The line between what is considered good and bad living in today’s society always seems to be determined by external factors rather than internal ones.
To the point that the definition of being content with one’s life is more on what can make other people believe that you are happy, instead of actually feeling like it.
I’ve always been the type of person who relied heavily on people’s perceptions of me even though what I showed to other people didn’t show what I actually felt inside.
Always being impatient of catching up with other people’s achievements just so that I could be able to flaunt some of my own without ever desiring to cultivate my own goals and aspirations.
Meaningless luxuries and connections to boast about — just to make it seem as if I was living a life that was fulfilled. Just for the sake of gaining feedback and praise from others. Only so that for the briefest of moments, I could feel what it meant to be human.
What does it mean to be human in the first place? What defines a fully-developed individual with goals and accomplishments? With a well-received disposition? A life that looks complete?
People push you to reach the unattainable, to garner as many friends and admirers who’ll speak highly of you, to live your life on the edge, and to be seen in places that are extravagant.
To stay fit, active, and on-the-go. To never remain immobile doing the same thing and if you were to do the same thing for the rest of your life, it has to at least contribute something worthwhile to pre-existing systems and industries that’ll compensate you for your consistent efforts.
To be seen as successful, rich, and productive.
All my life, this is what I was led to believe that makes a person happy, for their happiness to be so transparent others will not help but to take a good look at them and aspire for the same thing.
To have some tangible proof that yes, I am happy. For you to present your happiness to the world like some beautifully wrapped present so that you could avoid being seen as anything less of what you strive for.
To be ideal.
Even if it means walking away from paths that differ from what is already known despite their potential, stopping yourself as you think “No, this is not what’s considered ideal.”
Even if it means forcing yourself to stay cramped in the corner of a crowded room, only just so that you can be seen joining in on the party.
Even if it means not being genuinely happy with what you’re letting yourself endure, feeling great discomfort through it even, but stopping as you try to convince yourself that “No, this is what’s considered ideal.” But sometimes, what’s considered ideal for others, isn’t ideal for you.
At a young age, I never had the same interests as other people. Whether it’s involving myself in social circumstances that only suffocated me, pushing myself to befriend groups of people that I didn’t even like, let alone share any basic similarities with, just so that I could feel like I belonged.
Even if those same groups of people only isolated me more than they made me feel like I was one of them, I found solace in individual activities that didn’t have to stimulate me physically but rather intellectually and emotionally. That’s what made me happy.
But of course, people always felt the need to disrupt that moment’s worth of joy by making it seem like having no friends or people to talk to seemed pathetic and lonely.
But I didn’t feel lonely, if anything, I felt more one with myself than I ever was whenever I tried reaching out to others in order to reach a higher understanding of myself, only to end up feeling invalidated when I expressed my interests and opinions with others.
But of course, if being happy means interacting with a bunch of people you barely have any one-on-one conversations with and only ever hang-out with in public environments to feel as though you are being productive with your time, then sure, I’ll try.
Even if doing so only just drained me of my energy.
This insecurity especially took a toll on me during the start of the pandemic, which, as much as it was hard for many people who relied on outdoor-related activities for either work or wasting their leisure time, for me personally, it didn’t really change much from how I normally lived my life before Covid-19.
If anything, I even got as much work done that I wasn’t able to do due to being pulled away from my obligations concerning the outside world (e.g attending school and doing errands)
I wasn’t compelled to conform to societal expectations because this time I had a valid pass. I didn’t have to feel guilty about not going on some massive trip to the beach during the summer, spend the holidays with relatives or friends during Christmas, be in contact with as many people because guess what? It’s against the protocols.
As twisted as it may sound, a deeper part of me almost felt gratified that everyone was forced to stay isolated in the confinements of their homes, because then I had an excuse.
It was only until a massive wave of people on Twitter started posting about how they felt stuck, lonely, and miserable and proceeded to question how could anyone live in such a way?
Without the company of other people, strangers, friends, or colleagues, to not go out partying, attending concerts and clubs, and how this abrupt change was suffocating for them.
But it wasn’t for me, even before anyone expressed their sorrows, my life didn’t change one bit aside from having to wear a piece of fabric on my face before I went to take the trash out.
Before all of this sudden rage, I had no reason to think of me finding some form of pleasure in being stuck in my house without feeling the need to have some type of human contact as concerning. I, of course, felt the immense frustration over occasional financial bumps in the road much like everybody else, but aside from that? I felt almost liberated.
But again, the way people kept going on and on about how they thought the life of being alone and stuck in quarantine was sad and depressing made me feel insecure about being isolated despite how I had every reason to stay isolated during that time.
It made me reevaluate the way I lived my life. Even if what people kept raving about had never even crossed my mind as something I ever wanted to do in the near future, it still made me wonder what if?
What if I actually reconsidered doing any of these things instead of what I planned for myself and set aside my own forms of enjoyment, would I be happier?
Even if I knew that these things weren’t going to make me happy because I know myself and I know what I want.
But still, I couldn’t help but feel remorseful over a life that could’ve been, over a possibility that could’ve been achieved if only I just pushed myself harder to be someone different.
If only I just didn’t act a certain way, or spoke in a certain way, or thought in a certain way that always made me feel like I was in a bubble, alone with my own thoughts and feelings.
Where I could feel so content floating in my own realm, bouncing off on different angles and corners, relishing in my own space and indulgences. But that bubble is transparent and you could see everyone else living their own lives with other people, having already popped their own bubbles while I stayed in mine, because that’s where I felt the most at peace.
It took quite some time to dismantle this way of thinking, but even until now I’m still having a hard time coming to terms with who I am as a person and what I actually like, but it’s hard especially in a world that constantly dictates everybody’s life.
This is why I don’t like it when people sample a very specific circumstance in order to illustrate a bad or good way of living, because what does that even mean?
Isn’t it enough to find self-fulfillment from something another person doesn’t like and disliking a certain thing someone does like, without either one of them trying to label it as either good or bad? Isn’t it enough that you just find joy in it, without anybody else’s input?
It’s okay if you don’t find joy in being alone, but being alone doesn’t automatically translate to being lonely.
It’s okay if you constantly need the company of others in order to feel secure because wanting to be around other people doesn’t automatically translate to being needy.
We shouldn’t classify anything as ideal or non-ideal because at the end of the day, what works for you doesn’t always work well for others.
What you perceive as successful isn’t someone’s definition of being successful, what’s ordinary for you is extraordinary for someone else, and what makes you happy makes another person feel empty, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel guilty for the sake of someone else’s feelings that’s way out of your own control.
What truly matters is that there are no ideal circumstances in life. What we consider as personally fulfilling for ourselves shouldn’t have to require feedback from other people.
It’s about what’s important for you, and how you would prefer to walk on your own lane, no matter how fast or slow the speed of your strides are. It’s more on how you feel about the journey than just being able to say that you’ve reached a particular destination.