The Anxiety of Happiness – Phan Quỳnh Trâm

While waiting for the lift to get to the floor where I work, I’m thinking: what is better, to be happy or to be sad. As pathetic as it may sound, to be sad, for me, is not a problem, I’ve always had a tendency towards melancholy, even when I am happy. I don’t feel safe being happy, I feel shallow being happy, I regret right at the moment I start to feel happy. There are only moments of happiness, but pain is there to stay. When you’re happy, pain is hidden somewhere in a corner, and suddenly appearing in front of you in your least expected moment. When you suffer, pain fills all the space there is to fill. Nothing can take it by surprise, not even happiness. After all, Sontag said: “it’s melancholics who best know how to read the world”. But do I know how to read the world? I have enough problems trying to read myself. I struggle enough reading happy people. Why are they so happy? Why is their voice so jolly, why can they be so positive about everything? What is there in this life that is so happy? Do they fake it? Do they feel unhappy but accepting it and trying to be happy with it? Why do they look so certain about everything? I know. I have a problem. What I just said are probably signs of mental illness. So I did try to read some books about how to be happy, or about authentic happiness (as if happiness was some sort of Thai food). I must confess, whatever the books got to say went in through my eyes and straight out of my nose. Maybe I just didn’t have the right intelligence for it. And I never will. They say, when you’re happy, you can be more productive, you can be more creative, you will get more things done. Really? What things? I know I can’t write anything when I’m happy. But after writing something, I do feel happy, for a little while, but that happiness really comes from unhappiness doesn’t it? So back to the same question, should I feel happy? What do I do with “it”? What is so good about the feeling of happiness? I guess, only an unhappy person has the luxury of sitting down to wonder about such things. But now that I finish this prose and I feel really happy, and it’s a good feeling, a very good feeling, authentic or not, who gives a damn about those unhappy people, really.

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