The Tragedy of Disenchantment: Our Inability to Be Happy

Have you ever wanted something really badly, only to find out that it wasn’t as good as it initially appeared to be? I’ve come to accept that, for the most part, life is like this. Is it the universe’s fault? Do we blame some cosmic deity, or do we find the fault within ourselves?

The most difficult part of disenchantment is the let-down, feeling as though something was intended to be so special, and so life-altering, that it would infuse your very essence with a hitherto unimaginable sense of joy. Most of us strive toward long-term goals, as long-term planning and persistence is an aspect of our natures; it helps us reproduce and survive for a prolonged period of time. But, as we trudge along the road to success, we tend to shape our expectations with hints of romanticism, imagining how much better life would be if we achieved them.

Serving the purpose of motivation and resilience, romanticism becomes a captivating means in which we, sometimes, get trapped, as though our minds attempt to preclude the potential for heartbreak. In essence, the fantasy becomes better than the reality, and I’ve found that to be the case multiple times in my life, at different junctures, wherein I was stuck in fantasy, fearing the disappointment of actualization.

I remember being in college and dreaming of a charmed life, full of curiosity and achievement, envisioning myself as a great healer. The things that I wanted and expected for myself were likely excessive, but I don’t think I realized that then, but now, some part of me knows that I expected, and wanted, too much from life; yet, my immaturity blinded me from my sense of entitlement, preventing me from acknowledging my petulance.

Our expectations are intertwined with our imaginations and our innate tendencies to idealize our futures. The famed absurdist philosopher, Albert Camus, noted that life is absurd, and that it’s up to us to find a way to overcome it; but, I’m starting to wonder if we aren’t the absurd ones, with our romanticized expectations and inability to expect ourselves, and life, for what it is. When did the universe promise me fortune and fame? When did it say that, even if I were to receive it, I would be happy? When did it deceive me into believing that happiness, as an end state, existed? When did it tell me that it owed me whatever I wanted from it?

I know what you’re thinking: This post is nihilistic. But is it? Or is its purpose to enlighten and to humble, to help us lead more peaceful lives? In my understanding, our resentments toward others and the world around us tend to stem from our demands, rather than from an unfair universe. As I look back on all of the things I achieved and received, I’m not angry at the cosmos for my disenchantment; in reality, I’m upset with myself. I’m upset at my childishness and my unwillingness to be grateful for what I had; I’m upset at my sense of entitlement and unwillingness to attempt to enjoy the time spent doing that which was supposed to make me happy; I’m upset for always wanting, and demanding, more, when I’ve already been given so much; and I’m upset for all of the time I wasted, refusing to acknowledge all of the good things which I was afforded.

I wish that I was able to see my work, my relationships, and the potential for joy, then, as I see it now; I wish that I didn’t allow the grey colored glasses to erase my happiness; and, I wish that I was able to tell the petulant child within how much he already had, through no merit of his own. If you were to ask me now whether Camus was right, I’d tell you no, at least not completely. Life is absurd, but so are we. And often, we’re the ones who stand in the way of our ourselves, preventing any semblance of a happy life.

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