They say that those who look for happiness will find it. They say that we should pursue our dreams, and forego things that make life miserable.
There are two exceptions to this rule: when our happiness infringes upon or dismisses the happiness of others, and when our chase forces us to risk our basic needs.
There are those who heed this rule–the passionate, sometimes selfish, among us. And there are those who cling to one of its exceptions–people who range from the selfless to the material-consumed.
We find happiness when we’re willing to work for it, and we shouldn’t find it if it costs other people their happiness. Sounds good to me.
But in this philosophy there is a paradox that tortures a group of its most inspired members…
The philosophy of happiness–that we will find it if we look for it–contradicts another cliché: that we shouldn’t look for love. That love will find us. If we look for it, we will trick ourselves into believing we’ve found it, and we’ll “settle.”
For the romantic, settling is impossible. The romantic lives a volatile life, often brimming as much with insecurity and disappointment as it is with hope and wonder. “Settling” connotes mediocrity, and there can be no mediocre romantic.
So the paradox tortures the romantic: if love will make me happy, and I am supposed to look for what makes me happy, why am I not supposed to look for love? As a self-proclaimed, sappy romantic, I believe I have our answer: romantics are masochists. We thrive on torment and martyrdom as much as intimacy and ecstasy, and we would have it no other way.
First things first. What is a romantic? I define myself to be someone who wants desperately to find the love of his life–someone who will do nearly anything to find the mythical, perfect “him.” And right there in my definition of who I am we find the romantic’s fatal flaw: the incessant, impossible pursuit of perfection, of the never-ending honeymoon.
I’m not talking about perfection in intimacy. I’m not even talking about the expectation that everything must be “romantic” in a romantic relationship. No, no. Flowers and candy, rose petals and teddy bears—those things aren’t romantic. Those things are for normal people who sometimes buy tokens of romance.
I’m talking about the more subtle things like, will he hold me all night long, and what does it mean if he doesn’t? What about the way he looked at that guy who just walked by? He obviously thought the guy was attractive–what qualities does he have that I don’t?
These questions multiply by the thousands in the romantic’s mind, and if he’s good at faking, he’ll pretend such things don’t bother him–because he knows these thoughts are absurd–impossible to meet at the romantic’s satisfaction.
This sounds like the romantic is sappy or blind to reality–a victim of naivete, maybe. But he is not. He, of all people, has probably seen the most heartbreak. Instead of becoming disillusioned by tragedy as some people become, he over-inflates his broken heart with the very thing that shattered when it fell: hope. He falls down and stands up time and time again, believing each time to be his Happily Ever After. The romantic thrives on ferocity. On intense passion and tragedy. On agony and ecstasy. He is romantic because his happiness is fragile, and whether he knows it or not, that’s what turns him on. The romantic treasures life because he is the masochist who not only risks, but who dares, to be heartbroken so that he may savor ecstasy a million times more. It’s a theory in juxtaposition: how can we know bliss if we haven’t known heartbreak?
And that’s why romantics are often single, waiting for love instead of pursuing it (I fall into this category). Or serial monogamists, looking for happiness instead of waiting for love.
Is it a fault to be a romantic? Probably only to those who aren’t–to the normals. I’m happy to be a romantic.
Well, as happy as a romantic can be.