INTERN interacts with a lot of writers (some of them her friends) who have elaborate fantasies of rapture and eternal contentment following the acceptance for publication of their chapbook/short story collection/thinly-veiled college honors thesis.
But then, at her internship, INTERN interacts (or usually, overhears interactions) with writers who have book deals, but have deferred their rapture and eternal contentment to when their book sells 1,000,000 copies, or when they get interviewed about it on the Daily Show.
And yesterday when INTERN was dumping flour in the bread machine, she noticed that the rather humble bread machine cookbook she was using had sold over a million copies (and this, apparently, in 1991). INTERN was suddenly swamped in the feeling that her life was futile, and required two hours of high-octane pep-talking from Techie Boyfriend to come around. INTERN's book is slated to be published in May. The initial rapture-and-contentment has worn off, and now she is getting the jump on worrying about it.
INTERN has been bothered by this contradiction for a long time, and finally found an explanation for it: the hedonic treadmill. According to the hedonic treadmill theory, human happiness can only fluctuate so much before an internal recalibration occurs, and one returns to how happy or anxious one always was.
Over time, achievements that seemed huge and wondrous will shrink in importance until they seem like abject failure in comparison to the next desired achievement. Merely getting a book deal will seem like nothing compared to becoming a bestseller, or getting famous, or ghost-riding the whip on TV.
This is actually good news. It makes INTERN feel way better about life to know that she will always be approximately the same
degree of happy no matter what she does, and to think that Donna German, czar of bread machine cookbooks, is probably still feeling normal emotions rather than writhing in perpetual bliss.
INTERN is supposed to be signing and sending out stock declines right now, but she really wants to add a note to each one: don't worry about it! you are as happy now as you will ever be!