What is Happiness? by Davina Odebunmi

In the modern world we are sold the idea that happiness is measured by success, success however is defined by the high-flyers of the corporate world who have worked extremely hard to get to the top. Where does that leave the rest of us? Well, as passion-filled improvers hoping to be given a chance to have someone-else measure the usefulness of our passion, rearrange our dreams, determine and assess our ability.
It seems worlds away that the great philosopher Protagoras once said ‘Man is the measure of all things’. The man in the modern world is unsure that he has reached fulfilment, so he takes that extra shift until 6, he will work tirelessly at the same computer, at the same desk for years, performing tasks that circumvent his initial job description. Is this the life that all young people anticipate? Will being paid a six figure salary really be fulfilling – or will we pretend to ourselves that it will be enough for us to ignore the great, higher intellectual capacity and sensibility that we can all tap into. So what holds us back? And that’s, where I have a personal story to tell….
If we take away the high and mighty religious phrase ‘I have a calling, a purpose in life’ then we will sit comfortably in the realm of secularism where we have been taught not to think too deeply into things. If we have a talent, a vocation and enjoy what we do, we show this off to the world and enjoy the praise, worship and posivity from the people who appreciate our contributions to this world. And that is life, correct? No. I don’t believe that we are to sit and worship the philanthropy of any one given person.
However most of the time we indulge in the popular culture and worship the Rihanna’s, Brad Pitt’s/Angelina Jolie’s and Lady Gaga’s of this world, they can do no wrong and will be blessed due to the perfect escapism they offer to us through entertainment. We are again sold the idea that we cannot do better, nor achieve the great heights that those in the limelight can. It is at this point, as an early adult, that I started to view the world as a tunnel which is pitch black at the end. Of course to the outside world I should be a secure and comfortable young woman who knew from the age of fifteen that she was going to a journalist. Although a tricky career path to choose, I was not defeated by the countless industry folks telling me ‘It is not what you know, but who know and therefore your career currently lies on shaky ground’.
Traumatised by what had happened in my early childhood, by the time I arrived at university I was sliding into a hopeless pit of depression. Comparison was my enemy, but yet I was constantly consumed by it. ‘He/she is so smart’; ‘their life is order’. ‘Where is yours going? All you have is a dream, a talent yes, but a mountain of insecurity’.
Day after day for months I allowed it to take over my life, until I was encouraged by a friend to visit the doctor and in a flash I was diagnosed with depression and off I went with a packet of anti-depressants to a local Costcutter stocked with loads of vodka. I began living very fast, and as they say what goes up comes crashing horrendously down. My world was crazy and I didn’t even recognise myself, so that by the time I had a manic episode as I smashed the plates that belonged to my flatmates in my student halls of residence, I was demonstrating my resilience to authority as I stood hurling abuse at the duty doctor who was about to take me off to be sectioned.
After being imprisoned for a week, maltreated and physically scarred by horridly aggressive hospital staff, it is my aim to remove the stigma attached to mental health conditions. What’s more, whilst in the hospital, left with my iphone containing over 100 contacts, I managed to destroy my pre-arranged work placement at The Sunday Times Magazine, pumped with drugs I must have sounded like a lunatic calling to reveal the horrific realities of my time in the hospital.
Now stable and free from illness, I don’t think happiness has introduced itself to me, but I believe strongly that it will. Upon reflection on my experiences I have realised that conforming to the norm was never, and never will be, a path I choose to embark on. I am strongly convicted that we could all ‘Make the world a better place’. But we have bought into the lie that it is impossible.
As I look forward to the rest of my life I urge this generation of young people to treat the world like a kaleidoscope of opportunities, to take each effervescent colour as a beautiful chapter that has been painted and decided by you and you only.