I just can't help but torture myself. My phone vibrates and that pesky red bubble with the number appears in the left corner of the app icon. I don't want to open it. I don't want to see what Facebook is trying to tell me, but I have to obey the impulse that tells me to do it. "It's just to clear the notification" I deceptively tell myself. Before I know what I'm doing, my phone screen has been staring at me for a half hour and I've done a lot more on Facebook than clear the notification.
I compulsively scroll through my feed, otherwise known as "the lives of others." I see what old friends are up to—vacations, sports competitions, making other friends—and I'm happy for them. I'm glad they're enjoying their lives and experiencing new things. I'd like nothing more than to be right by their side doing the same thing, making memories instead of regrets.
A post about someone taking first place in a meet pops up and I'm ashamed that I was never a better athlete. Another person shares a friendiversary and I remember how I was too shy to talk to them in high school. A beach photo so picturesque it could be a postcard reminds me how long it's been since I traveled anywhere. While everyone around me is having the time of their life, I can't help but think about all the revisions I want to make to my timeline.
I want nothing more than to justify why I'm not what I want to be. I try to think of something I can be proud of. I have to prove to myself that I'm worth more than I feel like I am. When this challenge becomes too difficult, ignoring reality might work instead. If I focus on something else, I'll soon forget the growing list of regrets I'm creating.
It doesn't take long for all these attempts to wear off and I fall back into a slump. I continue to fantasize about all the ways I could be better. Times I would've erased from my life. Apologies I should've said. Situations I could've handled differently.
After too much of this kind of thinking, it becomes downright exhaustive. Enough is enough. I don't want to unfriend all the people that make me insecure and pretend they don't exist. I don't want to purge my phone of apps and contacts and hide myself from connecting with people. I don't want to avoid living my life.
What I really want is to find happiness.
Not in what I did or what I wish I could do, but in myself. I want to find a genuine source of happiness that doesn't burn out when the moment is over. There's nothing preventing joy from taking hold in me except my refusal to accept how it comes.
True happiness might not come on the silver platter I want it to. It might not come from being an all-star athlete or having the most friends or anything else I stare at in envy. It would be much more glamorous and easy if it did, but that's not the reality for most of us.
We have to find joy in the simple things; the little pleasures in life that can be found everywhere. It's a beautiful world we live in when we stop to take it all in. It's unfair to compare ourselves to others, and it's also the easiest way to lose our precious self-esteem, and in turn, our happiness. It doesn't take much to be happy, but we can't be critical of how it's found.