Come On Get Happy

Derek and I holding cardboard cartoon smiles up to our mouths in a McDonald's

I used to want to be famous. When I was a lot younger, I thought fame was a sure path to acceptance, adoration and financial freedom. I believed that fame washed away insecurities and flaws, leaving behind a shiny, beloved creature without a care in the world. I assumed it was how you got happy.

That’s what retouched photos and fluffy articles on celebrities would like us to believe. If I learned anything from writing Celebrity Tantrums: The Official Dirt, it’s that rich and famous people have many of the same problems they had when they were poor and struggling.

You cannot live in this world and be successful and not have heartaches, troubles, disappointments. It’s how you deal with it. I’ve had a lot of dreams, and most of them have come true, but a lot of them have not. 

Dolly Parton, USA Today

The belief that rolling around on a pile of money will take away self-consciousness or fear or grief is a flawed one. And as we found out in a Princeton University study , happiness levels top out at a salary of about $95,000 per year. After that it’s mostly a big “meh”, even though we don’t tend to believe it until we get there.

Happiness, I’ve come to understand, isn’t a destination, it’s a decision. For much of my own life, as I struggled with depression and bouts of anxiety, being happy was elusive. It came in brief moments, from a career accomplishment or while traveling. I don’t have the issue entirely resolved (who does?) but I’m happy more than not, because I’ve chosen to be.

Something people without depressive tendencies often don’t understand is that the depressed person is using a brain that operates differently. An onlooker might say, look on the bright side! When you’re depressed, that bright side isn’t accessible to you. It takes therapy or drugs or – insert solution here – whatever works for that person to make their brain resilient to the seductive familiarity of depressed thinking. Only then can they reach out for positivism and happiness.

Except for Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian, courting fame is a blood sport. You need a delusional belief in your own talent. And it’s not just working all the time, it’s enduring face-to-face, negative comments about your looks in auditions. It’s giving one mind-numbing interview after another where everyone asks you the same questions. Perhaps it’s a product failure when you have tens of thousands of people on the payroll and the pressure is enormous. Or you want to stroll through a park, or just eat at a restaurant without people wanting a piece of you. If you don’t respond with happy energy, they’ll go online and say you’re not grateful. Bad stories about famous people circulate alarmingly quickly. People love you but they also love to take you down.

There is a secret to being happy and that’s to not wish away whatever is happening in your life. This has exceptions, of course. Some things are simply too awful or traumatic. But for everyday events, instead of viewing happiness as something that will arrive after a trying time is over, or when something else happens, choose it now. The expectation that no trauma or drama will happen in life is why you’re not happy. It’s not realistic. People’s lives are carefully edited for social media but you can be sure that everyone, rich or poor, famous or unknown, has trying times that test their resolve. The happy ones know they’ll get through it and that it’s nothing personal. It’s just life.

2 thoughts on “Come On Get Happy”

  1. Hello my dear old friend/broadcast colleague:
    It’s all about choice…..TWO strokes in—–I’ve decided living for the moment, day by day—is all important.
    Forget “When I’m 64” Here it is:) Now I’m 64. Gotta stretch things out—-selfishly, for my sake–to enjoy the “wonder years” with my grandchildren. Money? who cares? I get up every morning—full of vim and vigour (somewhat reduced, admitteldy) but I’ve always been positive. Gotta keep smiling… For me? retirement, , though not wonderful financially, is still a good thing. Life and family? Always a blessing.

    Carpe’ Diem!

    1. Oh Joe, just seeing your name brings back so many smiles. You’re right about money. People matter. Love matters. Thank you for your comment, my friend, and I’m so glad you’re here to write it.

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