Many months ago I wrote a column about Restless Life Syndrome, a name I borrowed from an advice column on Salon to describe the phenomenon of, well, feeling restless in one’s life — of consciously or unconsciously searching for greater meaning through a series of often meaningless jobs, relationships, and purchases. In my piece I wrote that Restless Life Syndrome is another name for a variety of trendy “phenomenons” like the quarter-life crisis, Saturn Return, mid-life crisis, and empty-nest syndrome, and this restlessness so many of us feel at some point isn’t so much a product of one’s age, but of life in general. The semantics in the questions we ask ourselves from one stage of our lives to the next may change, but the intention behind them is always the same: “What do we need to live our most enriched, fulfilled, and happiest lives?” As I wrote in my first column on Restless Life Syndrome — and what I maintain now — is there isn’t a quick answer to the question or an easy formula through the restlessness, and in fact, the best way to achieve the happiness we all so want is to go through the discomfort and messiness of the unknown. As advice columnist Cary Tennis wrote: ““Discomfort becomes knowledge in the caldron of action,” adding: “You come to know that if you just feel the pain and move on, you can build your shelter and keep out of the rain.” It’s in the discomfort that we learn who we are and what we need to live our happiest, most fulfilled lives.
Some people, however, would rather you believe the answer is an expensive weekend workshop where you learn the key to your happiness. Christine Hassler”, life coach, author, and self-described “twentysomething & quarter-life crisis expert” has started offering a “transformational” workshop she calls “Chrysalis.” Chrysalis, she explains, is “the delicate process that changes a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly with intricate and vibrantly colored wings.” And for $695 ($595 if you register early), plus the price of transportation to LA, you can earn your own wings in just two days! How will you earn those wings, you ask? Why, you’ll “dive into your feminine being,” of course, and “come out of your cocoon of doubt, anxiety, unworthiness, fear and confusion.” You’ll do that anyway just by, you know, living your life, but this way gets you through all the messiness in a single weekend.
In a column on Huffington Post, Hassler explains that at 32, she is coming out of her own cocoon, transforming into a beautiful butterfly herself, “rounding the corner of what has been a period of intense personal discovery and transformation,” including: “a broken engagement, leaving a successful career, debt, confusion about [her] life purpose, depression, and health issues.” But not, it seems, a “quick fix” transformational workshop. In fact, Hessler actually pooh-poohs the quick fix, explaining that there isn’t a job or relationship — or weekend course? — that can bring happiness, and that, get this, happiness and fulfillment reside inside us.
“The funny thing is,” she writes, “once we reach one destination, along comes another one, and another one, and another one, and we’re in a constant state of external searching for things that can only truly be found inside. Looking outside of ourselves for happiness and fulfillment is an old paradigm.” A paradigm, it seems, Hessler is more than happy to exploit. Save your money, quarter-lifers, and transform into a beautiful butterfly the old-fashioned way: through the support of good friends, a few drinks, and a series of ill-fated relationships. The wings you’ll earn that way will take you much farther, and transform you more deeply than a weekend workshop ever could. I promise.