Inflicting Happiness

Nothing is more annoying than people who try to inflict their understanding of happiness on others and massage the existence of others into their own understanding of what constitutes bliss.

Due to a completely misguided notion of politeness, one never responds to such well-wishers the way one would really like to, namely, “I’d rather submit to 10 years of penal servitude than consider living in what, in your warped worldview, passes for happiness, you officious, irritating creature.” Instead, one just babbles weakly about how, of course, everybody is different, which is why the definitions of happiness may vary. . .

“Oh, bother,” the well-wisher announces loudly. “Of course, everybody wants the same things.” And proceeds to inflict some more joy on miserable interlocutors.


9 thoughts on “Inflicting Happiness

    1. Or, rather, who hasn’t and what wasn’t it? 🙂 People seem to need everybody to confirm the validity of their own choices by seeing everybody else make the same choices.

      The kinds of happiness people want to inflict on me most often are:

      1. Having children.
      2. Leaving academia for better-paid work in the industry.
      3. Their own way to run a romantic relationship.


      1. People in the second category get on my nerves. So I repeat to them what the people at Eastman School of Music told me: if you can’t see yourself doing it for no pay, then it’s not for you. That either starts them on a loop or makes them shut up, and then I can ignore them. 🙂


      2. Oh. So the problem is that they don’t see that what’s good for them isn’t what’s good for you. Maybe ask them who would teach the students if everybody up and left for the sake of more money?

        You’re not a loser. If you like to teach, then you should teach. If they don’t like to teach, then they shouldn’t teach. Besides, from the sounds of it, you make a difference in the lives of your students. That’s nothing to shrug at.


  1. I think that many people actually who do this sort of thing aren’t actually happy (they chose their life out of a sense of “tradition”) and want to inflict their misery on everyone else. I have also heard the same type of rhetoric regarding academia. And the fact is, if you can get a tenure track job, academic jobs are _dream_ jobs that offer a tremendous amount of freedom and thus have the potential to make many different personality types happy. So people poo poo academics because they actually feel jealous when they witness the freedom that academia offers. Same thing regarding parenthood. I know that there are many happy parents out there but I also think that there are many people who chose parenthood somewhat thoughtlessly and because it was “expected.” When these parents see the life of a childless/free couple, they feel a deep seeded jealousy/resentment and express that resentment by trying to convince the childfree couple that they are somehow missing out on “real” joy. In my opinion, people with truly happy lives don’t try to impose their lives on others. I would never, unless someone asked me, try to convince someone to go in to academia or to remain childfree because I am completely happy with my life and don’t really care what others decide to do with theirs. Great post. 🙂


    1. I think you are absolutely right. I’m completely at peace with my choices which is precisely why I have never tried to make people who left academia feel bad. I don’t need them to make the same career choice as I did to feel good about my decision. Some people love academia and thrive in it. Other people don’t like it and thrive in the industry. I don’t see any reason to suggest that only one of these career paths is THE good one.

      Some people, however, don’t see that.


    2. This stuff happens both ways I’ve noticed. You get the people in industry who berate people in academia and then people in academia who criticize people in industry. I agree though, no one should be made to feel bad for the decision they take.


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