In Into the Wild, a movie based on Jon Krakauer’s book by the same title, Christopher McCandless concludes, “Happiness only real when shared.” McCandless set out on a wilderness expedition into Alaska, living off the land and carrying with him random objects to either help him survive or document his journey. His odyssey was one of self discovery and enlightenment, as, prior to departing for Alaska, he had given up traditional societal norms by donating his savings and destroying his identification documents, among others.
In his search for truth, McCandless, after having run from his family and rejecting his conventional life, comes to the realization that the wilderness, much like society at times, can be unforgiving and harsh. Moreover, he discovers that happiness alone in the wilderness, isolated happiness, is not equivalent to living among loved ones.
Upon his realization, he decides to go back home, but the waterway he needs to cross to get there has become treacherous due to the thaw. Dejected, he returns to his dwelling in the wilderness — a broken-down bus — to live out his final days (he mistakes a plant for a poisonous one and consumes it) and document his observations in a journal.
The idea that happiness is only real when shared is timeless, going back as far as the oldest love story ever documented: Adam and Eve.
After the world had been created, God formed Adam. After Adam had been created, God said that he was given the task of naming all the animals and caring for the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 2:18, God exclaims, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” So Adam was put into a deep sleep, during which a rib was taken to form Eve.
Sitting in Christian elementary school, I always found this fascinating, yet teachers seemed to gloss over the subject. The Garden of Eden was perfect, yet Adam needed a helper because it was not good for him to be alone. Did he feel loneliness, like hunger or tiredness? If so, loneliness — or the need for companionship — existed even amid the perfection of the Garden of Eden.
The whole point here are the roles of love and relationships in our happiness equation. It seems we’re all searching for the same thing. Now some statistics, including the climbing divorce rate, would tell you that we’re doing this rather unsuccessfully. But in this world of online dating and missed connections, we’re seeking a chance to experience togetherness with someone because that makes us happy.
Of course, relying on a partner for your happiness comes with risks. For example, if he or she doesn’t fill your need for happiness, regret and resentment may follow. That desperate reliance on another to complete you is unhealthy. For me, the years 2011 and 2012 — if you’ve been following along — were a tumultuous journey, as I struggled to come to grips with myself, what I wanted, and where I was headed. During that time, I attempted online dating sites with no success because my heart wasn’t in it; I was seeking a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship.
I closed all my accounts and took a step back.
Entering a romantic relationship would’ve been unfair to me but, moreover, to any woman. Doing so would’ve put pressure on her to fill the void that only I myself could fill. I had questions that only I myself could answer. I had issues that only I myself could solve. I would’ve expected things from her far beyond what was realistic, throwing that relationship into the throes of defeat.
What do I mean? Well, in my own enlightening, self-discovery version of Into the Wild, love has always been something I wanted, but, more recently, it has come with a wiser, more-mature approach. As I get older, I want to share my life with someone, not throw my life at someone. And so I needed to take the time to better myself, screw my head on straight, and get my life in order. Happiness is only real when shared, but let’s not forget that misery also loves company, and I would’ve been forcing my unhappiness upon another.
I don’t want love to be a proverbial Band-Aid to help me forget because then I fail to deal with the issues and bottled-up hurt. I needed to first heal. I needed to stand on my own two feet with confidence, rather than rely on someone as a crutch.
We’re all so eager to jump into love because it seems right, normal, or expected. Parents and society pressure us, while biological clocks keep ticking. But love isn’t a “do it now and figure it out later” situation. In our selfish pursuits, we often forget that we may cause the other person more pain — and wasted time in the process — if our intent is for him or her to be the missing link.
I’m finally at a point where I’m walking steadily on stable ground. Understandably, I am not perfect, tough times may come again, and days will be bad, but, collectively, I am a stronger man today than yesterday, and I continually strive for improvement. My finances are in order; my career is taking off; my house has been bought; and I’m a better version of who I was before, inside and out. I’ve never before been this person. I’m ready to take the leap into the dating pool, not because I need someone to build me up from years of disappointment, but because I want to share myself — new and improved — with another. I want to be a complement to her, not a project.
In my personal journey, I’m finally ready to find love again. Now I should state that I can function on my own. I’m independent. I don’t need someone in order to be me. I don’t cry, “Woe is me; how can I do anything without a girlfriend?” No, I create for myself a busy schedule and keep myself occupied. I have goals for myself and set out to achieve them. While I wait for love, I’m not wasting any time following through on other items pertaining to my personal agenda. But at the end of the day, having someone — a best friend — is more than the logical next step; it’s an opportunity to share the life and happiness I’m building.
Yes, living life hand in hand, sharing experience and building toward the future are things that I want very much. In the meantime, I’ll continue in quest to refine my happiness, but it is really a never-ending goal. When the right one comes along, she will be happy to know that she isn’t filling a void, a great chasm of personal injury; rather, she will be the complementary layer. She will be getting the best of me because the worst of me was something I had to fix on my own.
Now, I am ready and waiting to be happier with someone.