I used to think in order for my writing career to go anywhere, I had to literally go somewhere and get out of Philly.
There was no way I had a shot at being the next Iyanla Vanzant or the black Mindy Kaling if I was located anywhere outside of New York City. While it’s true that changing your area code can give you better access to certain opportunities, there’s no substitute for hustle, ambition, and a healthy dose of talent, especially when it comes to writing in a Wi-fi/Wordpress kind of world. For some of us, success is as simple as of change of address, but far too often many of us use “chasing our dreams” as a way to run away from our real problems.
Chances are we all know (or have been someone) who’s packed up and moved to Los Angeles, New York City, or, the latest fave, Atlanta with the belief that relocation was the key to making their dreams come true. What about that person who is constantly quitting a job, moving to a new apartment, getting engaged, or even having children believing that the next big life change is the key to their happiness?
If any of this sounds familiar, then you may be affected by destination addiction (and it has nothing to do with frequent flyer miles). The term, coined by psychologist Dr. Robert Holden, creator of “The Happiness Project”, refers to the idea that success or happiness is a destination that we are traveling to which is unfortunately limiting many of us from enjoying the ride.
We find ourselves in a continued pursuit of happiness without allowing ourselves to enjoy the space we’re presently in.
According to Dr. Holden, that pursuit is making many of us unnecessarily unhappy:
“We suffer, literally, from the pursuit of happiness. We are always on the run, on the move, and on the go. Our goal is not to enjoy the day, it is to get through the day.”
I began to notice fleeting episodes of destination addiction among my friends and I the closer we all got to our 30’s. It was as if there was this life checklist that we were frantically trying to complete that included college degree, professional career, home ownership, committed relationship and 2.5 kids all by the age of 35. I don’t know why, but there’s something about the big 3-0 that makes some people feel like they’re captain of the Carnival Broken Dreams cruise ship if they are still living at home with parents and miles away from achieving the American dream.
The biggest problem with destination addiction is that it robs you of the opportunity to learn more about yourself in the moment and focuses on everything outside of your control. Some of us suffer from destination addiction because we truly believe happiness is always coming with the next big change. Others avoid spending too much time focused on the present because it forces them to deal with the real problem.
To be blunt: You have to step back every now and then and be honest about the part you play in your own unhappiness. Moving to a new home is not going to give you a fresh start if you allow your f**kboy of an ex-boyfriend to lay up under you whenever you’re lonely. If you can’t ever seem to get along with your co-workers, maybe the issue is your work ethic and not who you work for. And lastly, if you have no hustle in little No Name Town, USA, odds are moving to New York City won’t suddenly make you get on your grind.
Destination addiction is deceptive because it makes you believe that happiness is something you have to seek rather than create.
There’s nothing wrong with having goals, creating vision boards and generally wanting more for your life. I personally believe that life is about progress and every day I work on being a better person than I was the day before. The problem comes when your definition of better is solely based on your next move, material things and what looks good on paper. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who can’t wait to tell you about their Master’s degrees or six-figure salaries, but can’t even hold a decent conversation about current events because they spend their time scrolling through headlines without actually reading the articles. On the other hand, I‘ve come across very humble people who are content with having 307 subscribers to their YouTube yoga channel and can talk about everything from Iran’s nuclear program negotiations to Beyoncé’s latest black power moves.
The one thing everyone who seemed genuinely happy and successful had in common: They enjoyed their lives because they were authentic to who they were and what they wanted specifically from life. Not what Instagram, their peers, or the American Dream told them they should. They were also focused on the quality of their life, not the quantity of experiences and making the most of the moment they were in, instead of rushing from one achievement to the next.
All of this Oprah Super Soul Sunday talk sounds good, but I can’t tell you how much of an effort it takes to be at peace with the space I’m in lately, especially after being laid off about a month ago. As many quotes as I “pin” to my Inspiration Pinterest board, all it takes is one minute in my Instagram feed to make me instantly question my definition of “winning”. The funny thing is, I first found the above “destination addiction” quote on Angela Simmons’ Instagram page. It was sandwiched in between an #OOTD that I’m sure cost more than a week’s salary for most people and selfies of her in a bikini on some exotic beach and I thought to myself, Hey Angela. I see you’re jet-setting yet again. I’m just going to sit here and figure out how many more days I have until my student loan payment is officially delinquent.
The fact is, social media and an era of excess make a major contribution to this epidemic of destination addiction.
Scrolling through our Instagram and Facebook feeds are making many of us believe the good life is one waist trainer, designer handbag, or international vacation away.
I always think its funny when people say things like, “(Insert celeb name here) must not have any problems as much money as they make.” How many Kanye West emotional outbursts do we have to witness before we realize that fame and money aren’t the keys to happiness? It’s an everyday to struggle to experience this moment in my life for what it is, and perhaps it’s not about the next career move right now. Maybe it’s time to enjoy my family, to balance myself and attach happiness to nothing more than my state of mind.
None of us are immune to destination addiction and we all have times where we have to convince ourselves that better times are ahead just to make it through the day. But the key to defeating destination addiction is to find happiness with the life you have and to achieve the goals that are important to YOU, not the ones you think will impress everyone else.
Going back to school to get that Master’s degree? Get it because you want to be better educated, not because you want to impress your in-laws. Wait to marry someone you can’t imagine living without, not because you’re tired of your girlfriends giving you the side-eye because the longest relationship you’ve been in is with the Supernatural series. Most importantly, put that phone down and actually experience your trip to the Cook Islands instead of snapchatting the whole damn thing or planning the next impressive trip you’ll take before you even board the plane.
You shouldn’t need a passport in you pursuit of happiness. Learn to look forward to the future while finding peace with your present and attach the meaning of your life to the moments and not the milestones.