All the toil and stress and tears and worry and back-breaking, appendix-bursting, ulcer-birthing pressure.
Because everyone knows that you only have to struggle for a little while. And then, obviously when you’re still young and energetic and beautiful, you get your big break. Then you’re set for life. You’ve got your perfect job, which is both fulfilling and requires little effort, and was earned by a couple of short but uncomfortable graduate apprenticeships. You’ve got your handsome Prince Charming, who also happens to be funny, intelligent and sensitive. Your future is so secure that it may as well be planned out to each individual minute, but it’s not because you don’t need it to be – that’s how secure it is.
So just push for a bit longer, then you’ll over that one little bump, and then all you’ve got left is the happily ever after.
Disney-style movie-climax kisses and clinkable champagne all around!
And … now what?
Well, now nothing. Now the interesting bit is over. No one wants to watch what happens after you ride off into the sunset on a magnificent white stallion. The best bit is how you get there – overcoming obstacles and learning life lessons and becoming a fuller and more inspiring person.
Now you’ve done all that, the only thing you’ve got left is to sit out your happily ever after, just hang around waiting for death.
When you think about it, happily ever after really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It can’t be. Otherwise there would be fewer stories about the journeys people take to get there and more set once they’re already there.
It’s boring. There’s no challenge in it, which means there’s no sense of achievement or fulfilment. Surely, it’s better to work every day (with comfortable time off, of course) at a job that you enjoy, that makes a positive difference to the world around you, that makes you feel like your life has been worthwhile.
So … maybe focus on that?
Don’t expect all of the world’s problems to go away overnight one day. Don’t aim so high that you’ll spend your whole life unsatisfied with what you do manage to achieve.
Take each thing step by step, and celebrate each time to get to the next one. Fill your life with things that make you happy and people that make you laugh. Don’t try to make everything perfect, but find little ways to make your imperfect world work for you.
There’s probably never going to be a day when all the little problems go away, when you get to stop working and just coast gloriously through the rest of your days.
So try to build up a steady working life that you enjoy. Don’t see your work or your hobbies as a leg-up to something bigger and better. Try to appreciate it for what it is, enjoy it.
Try to find something that, if you were stuck doing it for the rest of your life, you could live with it, and keep at it until someone pays you for it.
And then you’ll live happily ever after, without even realising.