So it was A Level results day this week here in the UK, and it’s GCSE results next week which means we have a whole fortnight of celebrities tweeting variations of ‘it’s okay if you don’t get the results you hoped for, I failed x, y and z and I’m still happy/successful’. Personally, I find this so completely unhelpful and frankly hypocritical. With the exception of those two days, we spend the rest of the year beating ourselves, and other people, up for not being exactly where we should be in the life plans we’ve set out for ourselves. I definitely think this is getting worse with the whole ‘millenial’ culture of ‘oh Milennials are such snowflakes and don’t work for anything, when I was your age I worked 7 jobs and walked 25 miles to each of them and still had time to find a husband’, and you know what? It’s A, pissing me off and B, so completely and utterly inaccurate and not the case for anyone.
Here’s the thing, I don’t consider myself to be some wise, life affirming, philosophical guru, I got an A in AS Philosophy and even that was only because I memorised the textbook and regurgitated it word for word on the exam paper. But, and I don’t mean to be dramatic, I think I legitimately might have just discovered the single most useful bit of life advice ever; I mean, this is like the boolprop cheats in Sims, this is *the* hack, something more useful than the elastic bands in Spy Kids 2 (still not convinced they ever found 99 uses for those). Are you ready for your mind to be blown? Here it is. *Clears throat*:
If you are happy in an overall, all things considered, general sense, you are fine.
I’ll say it again for the people in the back:
If you are happy, you are fine.
“Thank you, Captain Obvious” I hear you say, but this is something that I went twenty four years of my life without realising. I spent three years at a really good university, the best university in the country for my subject area actually, and although there were pockets of happy times in there, I made some great lifelong friends, it was overall a very negative experience. The people who attend this university are generally not very nice, the culture is not very nice, and if the only thing ‘Eton’ means to you is a messy dessert, they will make it very clear that you are not welcome there. I finished that university with a first class degree, which I am exponentially proud of, but all people say to me is “oh my god you got a first from x, that’s amazing”. Is it? Was it worth needing counselling and feeling generally miserable for three years? In a word, “no”.
Fast forward 2 years, I’m on my second job out of university and my career is exactly on the path I want it to be, it’s all mapped out and everyone is telling me I’m amazing for doing what I do. But again, I am miserable. The job I was doing was very psychologically challenging; I had to accept some really quite disturbing things as normal, things that if they were portrayed in a film people would say “well that wouldn’t ever happen in real life”. And, great for the people who can handle that, seriously well done to you, but for me I didn’t like the person I had to become to be able to cope with doing that job. Also, the company I worked for was not right for me. There was a general bullying culture, immense pressure to do a difficult job with few resources and not enough staff, and people in my imminent team who were just generally not very nice at all. That’s about as far as I can politely go without really offending certain people, much as many of them 100% deserve it. It took me getting to a point of genuine mental breakdown and being unable to leave my house without having panic attacks that caused me to collapse, to realise that having my career in the ‘right’ place was just not worth it at all. You are not successful if you are coming home most days in tears and unable to sleep from the stress. It does not matter what your salary is or how much fantastic experience you are getting, if it’s affecting you negatively, that is counter-productive and you are actually unsuccessful.
Once I learned this, I realised it was applicable to basically everything. Not to go completely Charlotte York about this, but a question people often ask me is why I’m not married or engaged, because of the length of time I’ve been with my boyfriend. I’ll say it again, we are happy, ergo we are fine. I’m not saying it will never happen and I’m not a feminazi ‘men are the devil and marriage is oppressive’ type, but for now, things are completely fine. We are happy and, as they say, if it ain’t broke…
So here I am, at 24, working a fairly mundane job which I know is a beneath my degree and experience, unmarried despite being in a position where I easily could be; but here’s the plot twist, I AM HAPPY! For the first time in about a year I am, overall, happy more often than I am unhappy. Yes, things aren’t perfect, nothing ever is – I do sometimes get stressed at work or argue with my boyfriend or feel upset when something goes wrong, but on balance things are good. I honestly think this is the secret to life, and I’m not going to lie – I feel like I’ve found the Holy Grail. ‘Success’ is such an arbitrary term and you’re realistically never going to feel like you’ve achieved everything you meant to, so just stop stressing about it and do what you enjoy – I absolutely could’ve saved myself so much turmoil and mental distress if I’d known this earlier.