If you’re a millennial or a baby boomer, chances are that Walt Disney did a great job of burning the idea of “happily ever after” into your mind.
I remember watching Aladdin and Jasmine fall in love and prepare for a perfect life together. I remember Ariel and Eric getting married on a ship, and leaving, presumably to their “happily ever after”. I remember so many movies that ended with two characters kissing, getting married, or falling in love, on the cusp of unending bliss. The characters might not be perfect together at first, but they would be by the end of the movie.
I remember yearning desperately for this. I prayed that God would show me the girl I was destined to be with, taking for granted that The One was out there for me. We would fall in love, and we would be captivated and in love forever.
Then I got married, and reality began to set in. Life after the credits was not perfect.
This “happily ever after” idea is nice, but it’s left generations of people hurt and dissatisfied. Here are some of the ways I’ve seen it affect people. (If you think of any others, please message me.)
- Many people fell in love and expected “happily ever after”. Then, life after the credits struck, and they felt cheated and lied to. They panicked and either left to chase the elusive dream with someone else, or stayed and became miserable.
- Many people became entitled, not realizing the amount of work that a good relationship actually takes. They ended up hurting their partners terribly.
- Many people didn’t really want to settle down and experience a romantic “happily ever after”. But they felt like they should want it, and they experienced a serious identity crisis. Maybe they forced themselves to settle down and regretted it. Maybe they never settled down but always felt guilty.
The reality is, “happily ever after” is a myth. And yet, we keep chasing it.
For the record, Disney has done so much better. They’re starting to tell the truth about “happily ever after”. Watch some of their newest movies. Inside Out isn’t about perfection. It’s about the beauty and pain of growing. The Good Dinosaur is about learning maturity from facing adversity.
But the myth lives on.
Here’s the latest incarnation of the “happily ever after” myth:
“Do you want to find your purpose? Do you want to live out your dreams? Learn how I started a seven-figure consulting business in my basement!”
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in entrepreneurial spirit. I believe in finding purpose. I believe in making money and living well.
But it’s easy to believe that if we’re not wildly successful, we’re not worth much. It’s easy to fall into the trap of expecting the career version of “happily ever after”.
The truth is that chasing your passion is hard. It’s full of mundane tasks and boring days, risky ventures and scary phone calls. Doing something with purpose doesn’t always mean doing something grandiose. Sometimes it just means caring. Sometimes it means pouring your passion INTO something, rather than expecting to get passion OUT of doing it. And relationships are hard. There is no “easy button”. No matter who you meet, it’s not going to be easy. Some people and some jobs will be easier than others, but you won’t reach “happily ever after”.
And—this is what no one tells you—one passion might not carry you for your whole life. There is a season for everything, and I’ve discovered that we need to do the best we can with the season we’re in. If we start to focus too much on a specific career path as our “purpose”, we run the risk of any threat to that career threatening our identity.
Happily ever after is a myth, and that’s because we are designed for a chase. We’re not designed to “catch” everything we want all at once and spend the rest of our lives languishing in bliss. We’re supposed to struggle and fall and fail. That’s how we learn.
If you expect to get to a place in your life where you have “arrived”, prepare to be disappointed. We will never “arrive” at our destination. We will only arrive at new conclusions, new realizations, and new stages of life, a little at a time.
In the end, we don’t need happily ever after. We just need to keep pushing forward and keep trying. We need to keep loving, keep learning, and keep our eyes open. I’d like to leave you with this quote: