Over the past little while I have become increasingly aware of my compulsive attitude towards pleasure and distress. I, as I suspect is the case for many, oscillate between a wide variance of positive and negative emotional states which ultimately dictate my cognitive ones. Happiness gives rise to creativity and higher speeds of mental processing. Sadness brings with it anxiety and slow, cloudy thinking. I do my best to usher in the former state in times of emotional normality but usually to no avail. It seems not like a mere act of will that accelerates my consciousness into a positive operative. Instead I simply bear witness and let polarizing thoughts battle it out for the power seat.

I’ll have my cake, but I’ll eat it too. And this represents the fundamental fallacy on which I’ve built my conception of life, at least as it relates to my own pleasure and distress.

I’m on the brink of what I’ve convinced myself is the most important transition of my life. I have heard countless times in my life: “wait till you join the real world,” in reference to what I can only infer is what these people perceive to be the working world. From their accounts it’s a place of unrelenting stress that you take head on as you muster yourself through a storm of insecurity towards some idyllic island paradise you’ve glimpsed only in your dreams; almost  as if the shores of this paradise are an actual place you might someday bury your toes after a lifetime of perseverance. Whether this paradise manifests as some existential heaven beyond the confines of this world or as a black convertible Mercedes within this one, I just don’t buy the concept.

Deep down I know that suffering is mind made. But I also know that through some collective backwards mandate society has likened this darkness to a sort of prerequisite for happiness. It’s this whole “suffer now, prosper later” mentality that perpetuates this madness and what’s scariest of all is that it’s fundamental to our society. Suffer now? All I have in this world is now. Surely I know by now that everything I ever cared about pursuing has inevitably fallen into a category of stuff and things I used to care enough about to chase. Until I obtained that stuff and those things and more stuff and things emerged on the horizon, beyond my grasp, luring me with their gestures of deception. It’s no wonder that when you finally acquire wealth you squander it on status symbols to remind yourself of the days when you suffered and couldn’t boast such luxuries.

How would my parents react if I told them I’m more interested in booking a silent meditation retreat than I am in visiting the employment office. That I’d rather sit in solitude to learn about the nature of consciousness than hurl myself into the economic machine that will soon become the easiest means of defining me?

It’s not to say that I don’t want to work and contribute to the world because I do. I just don’t want to wade into this realm with the broken philosophy that objects and status is where my happiness, and therefore my identity, lays. That’s a broken mentality, I know it. And I haven’t successfully de-tangled from the twenty years of conditioning I’ve received from society, spoon feeding me this poisonous ideology. I’ve hardly located one end of the string.

Until I gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be happy, I will remain very cautious about devoting the vast majority of time and attention to one goal. Until I truly grasp the profundity that emanates from “being here now,” all other pursuits will remain pale in value. How do I reconcile my resistance against the system with my human pursuits of self-sustainability and romantic affection? I can no longer compartmentalize my life the way many people do. I scoff at a life neatly divided into personal and professional, recreation and work. There’s a beauty inside that I don’t want to oppress by buying into the casino we call society, wherein breaking even at the tables means you did okay. I aspire for more than just okay, and without using the typical instruments of wealth and status for measure. That means decoupling my concept of well-being from the items that promise such a thing. Where do I start?