Princesses, the title of this letter is overly dramatic on purpose. It's a device to capture your attention that in article writing we called a lead, or lede for those with deep-seated traumas that must exorcised by using weird words to feel special.
Since you're my daughters, I hope I haven't messed up that much. The purpose of flashy introductions is to hide the true meaning of a piece, which is often much more boring. Nothing will ever make you happy if you don't know what you are.
The pursuit of happiness is one of the fetishes of our society, and I don't think it will change by the time you are able to do something with these words - I hope you'll have a chance to heed them, but who knows maybe you'll just smile at my silly, outdated ideas.
I watch friends and acquaintainces scramble over themselves to share pictures of meals and holiday snaps with anyone - literally anyone - they can. My social media feeds are inundated either by people who live to impress with a great selfie, or by people who categorically refuse to participate in such practices.
Aren't they both silly? The first group is staging a great life that shows happiness, and the other group pretends to feel happiness in an abrupt act of separation from society. Neither are particularly happy, I'm going to guess.
Those who have found a modicum of peace with themselves don't go around posting proof of their happiness online. Those who have found peace don't find joy in outlining just how better they are than those who say they have. Neither group seems to be particularly wise.
And this is where I can offer one of my trademark pedantic distinctions that I am hoping you will find some use for in your lives: there is a clear difference between euphoria and happiness.
Instant gratification in its many forms is like a quick shove roughly in a direction you think you need. Happiness is a sustained state of joy that can only result from smooth, methodical planning.
Imagine being at sea, floating with the waves like I taught you precisely today. There are two ways you can move: by flaying about with your hands, moving a few centimetres with each push, or by trying those long, slow, sustained strokes we practiced a few hours ago.
You know, hopefully by experience more than by just remembering a day when you were seven and nine, that the result of instant gratification feel like progress, but just leave you exhausted and panting. Stop giggling, you know how I mean it.
Happiness, the one that has meaning, is the result of habit, perseverance, and planning. Sustained progress in a direction you enjoy. And you know, it doesn't have to be boring, dad-level meaningful stuff.
You can choose to simply be happy to return home to a healthy pet who greets you by bouncing all over your living room, spraying drool all over the place. You can be happy to have cooked that meal you saw on TV, or maybe just made up. You can be happy to receive that degree you studied so hard for, or to have completed a novel, album, game, or whatever you crazy kids had been working on.
The point is that nothing will ever make you happy if it comes from outside. Other people's approval, be it for Instagram pictures or musical stardom, are hollow roars that fill your chest and leave you cold afterwards. Cold, and in need of a stronger hit.
If you need proof of your father's dramatic statements, just go look up how many rock stars rot in early graves. How many successful artists kept chasing fame long after they'd achieved it, until it killed them.
So, princesses. Decide who you are. It's not a hard decision, because no one can tell you who you are. It's what you are. It's what makes you happy. We'll have another letter about that.
Decide what makes you happy. Do it.
It's that simple. Not easy, never. But it's not quite as confused as you might think, and it involves a lot less effort than you'd imagine. Once you find out what it is that truly makes you happy, once you decide to do it, you will know. It will feel right.
It will give you peace. And that's where happiness grows.