Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Happiness (or something that tastes a heck of a lot like it)

In a staggering little piece for Jacobin called 'In the Name of Love'[1], Miya Tokumitsu takes a good long look at the adage 'Do What You Love' (DWYL) - a mantra Millennials world-over seem to live by (or spend their lives straining to live by, at any rate) - and makes a searing case for how, in one fell swoop, DWYL "distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labour, whether or not they love it." I start my piece on this note primarily in a bid to deconstruct this month's editorial prompt which informs me that studies on 'happiness' show that "job-related satisfaction" seems to be a recurring theme for Millennials. In fact, the Happify study's[2] Chief Data Science Officer Ran Zilca goes as far as holding that, "if we overlay gratitude with long-term and short-term goals, a picture surfaces of a Millennial mind that is mainly occupied with landing the perfect job and that is subject to a good deal of stress and anxiety. Based on these results, it can be concluded that some Millennials place far too much emphasis on work as the key to their happiness.”

Now I don't know about you, but I find this disconcerting: what sort of a nightmarish Catch-22 situation is this? We seek 'happiness' not in who we are, but in what we do, because we inhabit a culture which glorifies the idea that we'll be happy only as long as we don't perceive that what we do is actually 'work' at all.

Of course, as Tokumitsu warns us, the real achievement of this insidious creed is that it makes "workers believe their labour serves the self and not the marketplace," - you don't mind putting in the endless hours, going nights on end without sleep, skipping endless meals, and basically neglecting your body till it threatens to break down all because you derive happiness from the comfort - the privilege - of loving what you do. I should know. I speak from experience. Time was, I'd convinced myself that I had never worked a day in my life (despite the fact that I've held down a job since I was 18) because how could someone paying me to read, write, teach and basically live the life of the mind I was born to live actually be considered something as base as, gasp, work? I think back to my time as a journalist, when I was part of the core team that launched a national newspaper in Gujarat: we'd make and edit mock-ups almost all night; be back at the news-room the next afternoon to have at it all over again. On the eve of our first issue, I remember staggering into my house at 7.30 am, only to be back in the newsroom less than 6 hours later. And I remember loving it: work gave me purpose. I derived (and in so many ways, continue to derive, although I promise I'm working on weaning myself off this dependence) my sense of self from that which I did because it gave me agency: I would write/teach the world better. Pfft. I sound fatuous, even to my own ears.

Happiness isn't a one-size-fits all thing. Consider this: Manik, who knows me about as well as I know myself, maintains that I'm only happy when I'm angry. When I'm smarting at some injustice in the world. When I'm scowling about something evil he's said. My friends and family know that I'm the easiest person in the world to wind up: they've pretty much made a sport out of it (Olympic licence pending), trying to outdo each other at coming up with shit they know will bother me silly (I'm looking at you, Marc and Raag). But that they try makes me...happy. And perhaps this is what happiness is to me. This endless teeth-gnashing. And curling up with the books (endless: thank you paycheque/capitalism - you've got my back) I can buy because I do what I love, which I realise now is still 'work' for all my deluded posturing otherwise; waking up to a hovering Clouseau who doesn't realise he's no longer a puppy dribbling all over me; making music with my walrus of a father three times a week; being ensconced in the (orange) fragrance of my mother's arms; hearing Manik tell me to 'lax each time I say I miss him - what's not to love about all of this? I just have to remember to leave campus when I exit it each day, because there's happiness to be found in that to. But I'm going to leave the 'chasing' analogy behind. Pursuit takes work. More work. And I work enough. In fact,  I'm going to let myself just occupy happiness instead.

[1] https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/01/in-the-name-of-love/
[2] http://www.happify.com/  

1 comment:

Mindvalley Academy said...

I enjoyed this blog post. It is inspiring and informative.