Important announcement: I am now officially done with college applications, which means I am now free to write whatever I want. Wheeeeeeeeee. Like you actually don’t even understand how liberating this is. Actually you probably do.
And suddenly, writing blogs seems a lot more appealing than it did for the last couple of months because there’s less “this should be a supplement” guilt. Yup.
I have come to realize that I really have no idea what the hell “contentment” means. I just re-read that sentence and it sounds really depressing. Sorry. My bad. But notice that I said that I have no idea what it “means” and not that I have no idea what it “is.”
And what I mean by that is that I know what contentment is because I’ve felt it, but I have no idea what it means because I couldn’t tell you how to recreate it. Like, you can recreate happiness by going to Target and buying yourself a bunch of random things that make you happy temporarily but aren’t expensive enough to make you regret buying them later. Oh wait, that’s just me. You can recreate happiness by buying yourself ice cream on a cone instead of in a cup or getting something gift wrapped at the store even though you’re actually just buying it for yourself or, if you’re really rich, going on vacation or buying yourself a fancy car or something like that.
Maybe that’s materialistic, but not that many people can truthfully say that they wouldn’t be at least temporarily happy because of those things. And all those people who say that money can’t buy happiness, I think what they really mean is that money can’t buy contentment, which I totally agree with. Because what you do when you’re recreating happiness is you’re adding happy things to your life. But the problem with that is that you can add and add and add and add, and that might make bad things less significant as a percentage of the whole, but it doesn’t take the bad things away.
Contentment, I guess, is a period of time where those bad things don’t, or at least seem like they don’t, exist. And maybe that’s why there’s no way to recreate contentment: there’s no set formula for it. It’s just a kind of state where everything is going your way, which can be accomplished in about a million different ways and yet is still really rare and hard to encounter.
And dude, is there any better feeling than realizing that you’re content? What makes contentment extra cool is that it kind of sneaks up on you, since there’s no defining event that makes you content. Like you can literally just sit there and think about what’s going on in your life, and have a BOOM realization moment that you’re content. Because that has totally happened to me before, and maybe it’s just me, but I kind of love that feeling more than just the plain old happiness feeling.
Then again, that kind of thing doesn’t really happen all that often because there is almost always something to worry about, even if it’s so tiny that you don’t even really consider it a worry in the grand scheme of things. Like going to the dentist. I’m pretty sure everyone on the face of this planet hates going to the dentist because everyone makes a big deal about how they hate being judged and going to the dentist is like the exact same thing. Okay, but anyway, something like the fact that you have to go to the dentist soon shouldn’t be able to totally ruin your contentment, but to be honest, it sometimes does. Things like that are what make contentment so rare. And yes, I have to go to the dentist soon.
In a way, maybe the trick to being content more often is to think in the short term. I do that. Because if going to the dentist is something that ruins contentment, in theory you should never be content because you are going to have to go some time in the next six months. And yet, as long as it’s not in the next two weeks or so, it’s far enough away that it pretty much doesn’t exist and doesn’t count against my contentment. And I’ve kind of been hating on going to the dentist, but I think that applies to all bad things, which are also inevitable, which is kind of pessimistic but also kind of true. Contentment relies on your ability to be in denial, at least for a little bit. If I have a math test on Tuesday, and am good enough at ignoring that fact, I can be content that weekend. That’s pretty hard to do though.
Finally, contentment is a lot more common in hindsight. Here’s why: I, like Gatsby aka my favorite person in the whole world, like to romanticize the past. Because it’s so easy to forget about all of the little worries you had like three years ago. Maybe this is just me, but I split periods of my life into eras, and when I categorize them, I definitely don’t remember the fact that I had to go to the dentist during that era. And once you take away all the little worries that aren’t significant enough to be remembered in hindsight, it’s a lot easier to think that you were content like, all the time, in the past. Which causes you to get all nostalgic for the past because it seems so perfect now. But if you were really to go back to that era, you probably wouldn’t really be content because all of those little worries would pop up again.
And even being fully aware of that fact, as well as of the tragic fate of Gatsby, I still like to romanticize the past.
“Nostalgia is a side effect of dying,” says Augustus Waters.
I love literature.