It’s the first 40 years of childhood that really are the hardest!

I’ve always had this idea in the back of my mind that being older represented being more comfortable with myself.

As a creative type (and being autistic), I’ve struggled with things like the meaning of life and the point of being alive for as long as I can remember.

Other people have always seemed to skate so easily on the surface of life, moving from one milestone to the next without the kind of deep introspective delving that has, at times, paralysed me from really living at all.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying figure out what other people want, what they’re really saying (not just what they seem to be saying) and what the point of existing is when life feels like a repetition of the mundane.

When the only answer I came up against was that things didn’t happen for a reason, and that the world was just full of cruel and random chaos, I spent a lot of time in existential crisis. It was the undercurrent of my teens and twenties.

I struggled to find comfort when it felt like thinking that things happening for a reason was a mere defence mechanism to stave off the abyss of jaded, nihilistic, cynical, desensitised detachment that seemed to be the underlying state of the universe.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I can look at the universe in two ways. Either, everything is predestined, or everything is random. But while neither viewpoint provided a completely satisfactory answer, I determined that, maybe, the answer is somewhere between the two.

Could it be that the system, which is entirely random, still has a consistent force pulling everything toward one outcome over the other?

This would mean that sometimes the random force wins, sometimes the predetermined force. It would all depend on the circumstantial factors and whether one force is stronger than the other.

When I look at human events, in which I can clearly see elements of both randomness and predetermination, it’s plain that there is causality. Things happen because other things happened before them.

If the outcome is what we perceive as negative — war, climate collapse, economic instability — it’s often due to the intentions and actions of the humans involved in pushing events in that direction.

By this logic, we can then determine that the world needs people with good intent to help shape the world into a better place. Or, maybe into as pleasant a place as we can make it.

And so, like Mark Manson, I came to the conclusion that hope was the way forward.

The avoidance of hopelessness — that is, the construction of hope — then becomes our mind’s primary project. All meaning, everything we understand about ourselves and the world, is constructed for the purpose of maintaining hope. Therefore, hope is the only thing any of us willingly dies for. Hope is what we believe to be greater than ourselves. Without it, we believe we are nothing.

—Mark Manson, “The Uncomfortable Truth”

And, through much trial, error and research, I concluded that gratitude was the way to ignite and sustain hope. Enter the Happiness Advantage, a theory coined by Shawn Achor.

Achor states that happiness and optimism fuel our performance and achievement in life. So the happier we are, the more successful we’re likely to be (not in the least because whatever we do achieve, we’ll be happier about than without the Happiness Advantage).

So, as I move into the mythological pantheon of the patriarchy, these are the things I’d like to take with me on this journey: hope and happiness.

Life really does begin at forty. Up until then, you are just doing research.

— Carl Jung

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