Happiness is something that you both must sacrifice, and something that you will sacrifice almost everything else for.
At many, many points in your life, the correct decision will be to sacrifice immediate happiness for some “practical” reason. It will almost never be the correct decision to sacrifice long-term happiness for any reason.
We sacrifice immediate happiness all the time. I love my job, but yesterday as I was about to log onto a meeting my doe-eyed three-year-old batted her adorable eyelashes and said “will you play with me a wiiiiittle bit?” It would have made me roughly a bajillion times happier to have done so, but I still logged into the meeting (and played with her a wot later). So we recognize that we can’t always make the decision that results in the most instantaneous happiness – we have to pay bills, do chores, and so on.
The only problem with that is that day in, day out it can make us convinced that happiness is always trivial. That it’s not practical, not something we get to make a priority. That it’s something that maybe happens sometimes, or maybe is a by-product of doing all the work, but it’s not something we get to actively choose.
Bunk, I say.
You have to choose it. Happiness isn’t something you lay at the altar of productive, practical work and success. It’s what you do all that stuff for.
That’s a big thing to grapple with. It requires a lot of faith – faith that in the long term you’re capable of happiness and capable of building the world in which you get to feel it. It can seem very far away at times. Sometimes the “struggle years” get dark, and you’re as broke or overworked or unhealthy as you’ll ever be in your life. During those times, it can be very difficult to believe that happiness is an actual, concrete thing you can build.
But it is. If it wasn’t, nothing else would be worth it anyway. You can carve out a happiness homestead for you and the ones you love. You might have to sacrifice a lot of happiness along the way, to put in the work you need. Some days just surviving will be an amazing feat.
The farmer needs faith. The farmer looks out on a field of nothing but dirt and has to have faith that all the hard work put into that dirt will yield bounty. That’s you – no matter how much things around you look like dirt, you can reap great things from it. It will take work, it will take sacrifice, but it’s there.