The phrase “happily ever after” has been popularized ever since fairy tale films in the likes of Cinderella, Snow White and Peter Pan greeted our eyes. Stories of fulfillment, romance, family and contentment – a “happy ever after” ingrained into our very minds. From that point on, our childhood has been revolving around that concept of “happiness” – that we must reach a point where we have our “prince charming,” or “princess,” a complete family and other conclusive goals.
Happiness has become this sort of goal that everybody tries to achieve and if you cannot reach this certain point, you ultimately find labeling yourself as a failure of sorts at this game called life. With such concept instilled into our heads, we always find ourselves thirsting for something that is almost dream-like. Take for example, in a relationship scenario; we often try to strive for something that is more popularly termed as “relationship goals.” These goals often include taking a photo of your significant other doing this one act that people deem to be the highest attainment for a relationship.
With so much expectation into actualizing the goals you have for a relationship, the withdrawals you feel when you do part with this significant other tend to hurt more than usual. Regret takes root in that fallen heart of yours – asking questions like what went wrong? Is it because I wasn’t enough for them?
In that regret, we often find ourselves backed into the corner and are more determined to take on risky acts that might hurt us even further. Even experts claim that this notion of a “happy ever after” being the epitome of how we view happiness actually entices us to feel even down when it all goes wrong. We are too naïve and put this unnecessary burden upon us – that happiness should always be a goal that we will never reach. This leads into a mindset that the world is always against your struggle for happiness and leads us into this endless cycle of questioning the reasons for living in the first place.
Does this mean that the concept of a “happy ever after” can never be attained? Are we, as people, doomed to feel sadness and pain for the entirety of our existence?
Well, not really.
“Happy ever after” is a real thing but we confuse its actual meaning. Society is so set into thinking that whatever we see in romance, feel-good films is the ideal portrayal of the “happy ever after” scenario – when really, this holds no truth at all. Happiness should be not be similar to how retirement is generalized as that time when you reach the age of sixty, you settle down, get a huge amount of money and die off peacefully.
Happiness should be a feeling – an emotion. Not a requirement that comes with a criteria.
Imagine your time back in summer vacation: your family in some resort or at home, just enjoying each others’ company, laughing at jokes and just, overall, having a really good time. This is what happiness should be like. Not getting all comfy with your “prince charming,” winning the lottery, or getting together with that pretty girl who sits beside you in class. Happiness should be a thing you feel in a certain time and place.
This is what the poorest and marginalized people in our communities always feel. They feel that wherever their loved ones are, that’s where you can find true happiness. Although, sure, they might be living day-to-day being content with scraps from people’s rubbish but in the end, they still find time to show off their grins and continue living. It’s not a hidden secret that these people suffer way too much than they deserve – living off with barely a meal per day, no education and possibly, no hope at a decent future. Despite all of those realities, they still find themselves smiling at the company of brothers, sisters, friends and family.
We should try looking at the concepts of happiness portrayed by the most bleakest of films that’s graced our theaters like Lord of the Rings, Your Name, Harry Potter – to name a few. The characters within these stories suffered a great deal of loss and pain. For example: Harry Potter had a rough childhood in that he had no one to call as “family.” Instead of dragging himself down the mud, he found solace in the companionship of friends like Hermione, Ron and other characters.
An exhilarating football game, your friend tripping on something and laughing about it afterwards, that one video you saw about a dog finally realizing that his master did not disappear into a cloth of white. These few examples are not detailing any scenario that involves any “prince charming,” “complete families,” or some fairy godmother to make you filthy rich. Rather, these are true forms of happiness: contentedness in the mundane and simple things.
With the prevalence of a social media that comes up with new standards to how we should live our happy lives, the concept of a “happy ever after” gets tainted and becomes implicit toxicity that we confuse with something that nourishes us with joy. We impose so many requirements on ourselves and others in order to create the perfect scenario of a “happy ever after” – forgetting what actual happiness, in the process, actually means to us.
This is why billionaires, politicians and other influential identities find themselves at a loss of happiness. We confuse happiness with so much material objects and that more things are equivalent to assured happiness in the rest of our lifetimes. In the recent times, we find that idea to be wrong with celebrities like Chester Bennington from Linkin Park, the famous actor and comedian Robin Williams who both died from suicide.
Let us be happy in our own terms. Not by what some Disney film told us in our childhood back in the past, or whatever romance-comedy series portray as being the perfect form of happiness. Happiness should be a feeling, never a preset scenario.
Article contribution to ‘Warrior’s Ink,’ the official student publication of the University of San Carlos SHS.