I re-invited chaos into my life in search of stability and happiness
Change is always necessary for real progress and growth. The Norse god Loki is traditionally viewed as the “bad one” by modern culture and popular literature. He’s the guy that’s always bringing chaos and havoc on the idyllic lives of other gods. If he’s not out stealing fire and giving it to humans, he’s gate-crashing parties or cutting other gods’ hair without their permission.
He’s the guy that’s always challenging the status quo — just because he can.
The old gods are more human-like in their actions, reactions, and demeanor than Christianity and its representatives are. The only major difference between us and old gods is that they are (sometimes) immortal and wield an assortment of supernatural powers. They are flawed, as we are, and they often use Loki as the scapegoat for when something changes.
However, the idyllic life presented to us through our personal fantasies is a misalignment between reality and our imagined expectations. Time is constantly moving us forward and things never truly stay the same. At some point, the pent up rage of chaos will break loose. You can either reject it and continue living the idyllic fantasy that everything is fine, or embrace it and make Loki your friend.
Our flawed search for happiness
Denmark ranks as one of the most consistently happiest country in the world. According to the World Happiness report and denmark.dk, the Danish are happy to pay taxes (which is more than half their income), 25% additional tax on goods and services, and up to 150% tax on new cars. These numbers are not limited to just the wealthy, but also to almost everyone.
However, this cannot be implemented if the cultural landscape and personal expectations don’t support it. The Danish way of living revolves around the concept of hygge (hoo-ga).
The Danish describe hygge as “enjoying the simple and good parts of life together with people you care about”. This is a stark difference in philosophy and way of living over the materialism and rat race climb towards the mythical ‘top’. Growth is achieved through the personal strive towards progress and movement forward. Sometimes it comes in the form of a degree, sometimes a pay raise or new job title. Sometimes it materializes through the things we own, the approval and opinions we get from others.
In contrast, hygge advocates for growth through understanding yourself, the quality of personal relationships, and the joy of experience life for what it is. hygge is the embodiment of happiness experienced in the moment rather than a far future that’s based on certain external factors coming together in the right way.
Why is this important? Because here we have an example of an entire country accepting the mediocrity of their existence and therefore strive to make it better as a community. hygge is one part materialism, one part personal experience, and one part community. The Danish purposefully designed their spaces to be beautiful, implemented welfare systems that is nurturing, and trusts their citizens to figure out what works best for themselves. These three factors add up to form a system that encourages a sense of empowerment.
This is a stark contrast to the rest of the world, where empowerment is gained through battling the system and coming out the other side better than everyone else. Someone always ends up as a casualty, if not everyone except the one person that made it.
Embracing chaos through the anti-culture
Sometimes when you exist inside a particular mental framework or system, it’s hard to see or implement an alternative. Change can often cause chaos to ensue, especially if done in an abrupt manner.
The first time I personally embraced change was when I lost my job back in 2018. Sure, I could have jumped back right into the corporate world and continued the 9–5 deal. But I didn’t. It made me miserable and added fuel to the complicated job of being a parent.
The decision to quit the 9–5 wasn’t easy. The societal ideal that I existed in had the following pathway laid out for me:
- work the 9–5 gig and send the child to daycare for more than 40 hours a week
- save up money for house deposit and get mortgage that would span over 30 years of my life
- hit 67 years old, retire, collect the pension and then do whatever I want
The threat of veering away from this narrative is financial ruin and humiliation by being a complete failure. Over time, I’ve discovered that to change my reality, I also needed to change my personal narrative. I can’t keep walking the above pathway and expect different results. To keep doing what everyone else is doing will only continue to trap me in the cycle of self-imposed misery.
So I started to look for alternatives.
The thing with hygge is that you have to be genuine in your intentions in order to receive in kind. The moment you try to take more than you’ve given, it backfires on you.
Embracing hygge involves embracing yourself and working towards personal fulfillment whilst enjoying the little moments that make up the journey. It’s more than just cozy fur rugs or an aesthetically pleasing living room. hygge is a system of living and in order to achieve it, your process for living has to nurture you.
What nurture looks like is different from person to person. For me, it came in the form of rediscovering my love for writing and learning. It took a few trials and errors to figure out how to melt my profession (software developer) with personal passions and desires.
While this sounds idyllic, the process of getting where I am now has been a series of self-inflicted chaos. They were events that could have resolved peacefully if I complied with the status quo and went along with what was expected by others. But I didn’t. I fought. I cried. I battled through staying with my child full time until she was 18 months, lack of sleep, and drastically reduced income. I went against the flow in search of something different.
I invited chaos into my life and embraced it. In return, chaos gave me the communities I needed and just enough income for me to figure out my next steps.
Where to from here?
The thing about my former life is that I looked so far into the future that I couldn’t enjoy the present. My happiness existed in the far off fantasy land of retirement, where things could be drastically different due to political decisions made in the present.
The thing with hygge is that you take life one day a time, accepting the mediocrity that is life and allowing yourself to enjoy your moments in the present. It’s not about hedonistic fulfillment where you pursue happiness in the form of present pleasures. Rather, it’s about accepting reality for what it is and existing alongside it in a manner that makes you happy.
In my case, it’s accepting that I will probably never own a home in the city I live in. That discarding the 9–5 will result in the lack of a traditional career climb. That doing what I care about and focusing on nurturing the reality I want may result in displeasing people. That displeased people will eventually walk away because I no longer serve their purpose. That the people who stay are the ones that truly matter.
I’ve recently become complacent and replaced the 9–5 with a different form of work. In the past few months, I stopped writing, I stopped learning, and I stopped growing. Over time, I became depleted and lost my sense of self once again. So I re-invited chaos back into my life to get back to where I want to be.
The difference is that it’s the right kind of chaos — a self-imposed and guided sort of deal, meaning that I have complete control over the choices and potential outcomes. It’s different from the chaos caused by others, where you have no control at all. When you create your own chaos and embrace it, you allow yourself to pave your own pathways and nurture your version of happiness.