We’ve all got some things we’d rather change about ourselves, and this is one of mine: I have incredibly lame answers to the most-asked questions. One such question, which is often a variation of “what do you want to be?” or “where do you hope to be in 10 years?” I usually respond with a casual, “oh, you know. Happy.”
I know. I KNOW. It’s so annoying, terribly common, lacking in creativity and deep thought. Because at the end of the day, surely we all just want one thing–the feeling of contentedness, joy, success within our professional, creative, personal lives, our relationships, the manner in which we wake up in the morning and put ourselves to sleep each evening. [Or wake up each evening and go to bed in the morning–we’ve all got our things. Maybe that’s your thing.]
Yet, despite my own self-judgment, I have to also play defense. There’s something distressing about that concept that happiness has become so common as to seem so trite and lackluster. Should it be packaged into an answer you can pick off the shelf like a can of diced tomatoes? Is that how it seems? Should “I want to be happy” equate, meaning-wise, to a young child’s “I want to be a firefighter?” [Is there something wrong with WANTING to be a firefighter?] As per usual, I have a pocketful of questions and an empty handful of answers. But it’s okay. I don’t want to solve any puzzles today, but I do want to talk about happiness and what it means to me.
Internal comfort was not something I came by very easily. Self-acceptance and high personal esteem were two incredibly vague and foreign concepts to me for quite some time, for reasons probably known to science and the universe but mostly mysterious to me. Anyone who has felt darkness within themselves can understand this entirely too conventional sentiment; how to long to escape from devastation through numbness, desperately wishing to feel nothing at all–and that’s on a good day.
But, as is the way of the universe, the bad is only known through the relief of the good. A lemon is only sour because sugar makes it seem so. And in my second year of college, the sweet relief of independence and sisterhood and almost 365 days of summer proved to me that attaining the big H is not a mystery or a myth or totally out of the question: it’s just a matter of timing. It was light. I felt light. And sustaining that light, as it turned out, was neither a struggle nor the result of just a really good day.
College ended, as it does, and suddenly things didn’t feel so light anymore. Adulthood does that to you. [I guess. Am I an adult yet? When does that happen? Who am I?] And, I guess, I got really down on myself because although things appeared to be in place and I was managing well, it didn’t feel the same. I felt like the good days had ended and it was just another 70 years (if I’m lucky..) of worrying about paying bills and feeling fulfilled in my career etc etc etc. I’m only 24 goddamn years old . THIS CAN’T BE ALL THERE IS.
The reason I’m writing this today is because I’m a late bloomer and just realized that I’ve been putting happiness in a box where it doesn’t belong. The thought that you can only feel one way to make it “count” is ridiculous (but yet something I thought for just about the entirety of my life). It’s like love, I think. I always worried about “knowing” what to look for when you were in love. Like, what are the signs? How will I KNOW?! What if I don’t recognized it until it’s too late?
As an introvert, I have a bad habit of internalizing and overanalyzing everything [EVERYTHING]. So the thought that I couldn’t put a defining stamp on the face of a feeling seemed, frankly, unacceptable. As in, “happiness looks like [___________].” For me, it looked like living in a big house with 22 of my closest friends, being able to get a sweet tan on my walk to class every day, having a room with a balcony and a door I could open any time of the year for some soothing Florida breezes, intelligent conversations in class with people who didn’t judge me for loving The Heart of Darkness, late night grilled cheeses, good-naturedly stealing orange traffic cones whenever and wherever possible, and flamingos–everywhere–at all times of day.
That was an excellent kind of happiness, but it’s far from the only kind. I feel honored to recognize that now. Currently, I am dating the best man I have known, who gets my dry sense of humor, allows me to be a part of his highs and his lows, who is an excellent cook, who doesn’t apologize for being who he is, who makes me excellent breakfasts and watches nature documentaries with me and always makes me feel like numero uno. This is my happy now. I have a job, which has given me wonderful new friends and is helping to point me in the direction of my career path–and there’s always an abundance of adorable dogs and cats of all size and shape. For all intents and purposes, my happy now feels a lot like a combination of security and spontaneity.
I don’t know if happiness can be ranked, but I think that might be thinking about it a little too much. It should just be. And it is.
Speaking of happiness, the Californian love of my life has started a blog which I encourage everyone to read. Even if you don’t know her, I think you will find her stories captivating. She has lived about five lifetimes in her 23 years. http://bayarealist.blogspot.com/
I’m sure it’ll be another three months until I write again, so until then, and as always, thank you for being a part of my happiness.