I’m not sure I’ve ever quite known what it feels like to be happy.
To be clear, I mean this in the least depressing, least self-pitying way possible.
What I mean is, as confused humans strolling around this world trying to figure out what exactly it is we’re supposed to be doing here, we tend to get stuck.
We get stuck on words, ideas, shoulds, should haves. We like definitions. We like answers. We like clarity.
We also like extremes. For example:
Happiness = Being an adorable baby + a bunch of years of schooling you don’t remember but hold near and dear to your heart + more school + a period of rebellion + a brief period of being in shambles + getting your life together and having cute babies to replicate this equation.
Happiness = Being an adorable baby (this is just a universal truth, it’s how all my life-equations start) + partaking in badassery that is still cute because you’re young enough + more badassery that is less cute and a little more concerning + doing whatever the hell you want and worrying your entire family + publicly declaring you hate the institution of marriage and globetrotting for 10 years with a money source that has yet to be determined by anyone on the outside looking in.
Fall somewhere in the grey area? Tough luck. We haven’t found a way to glamorously Instagram the lives of the 92% of the human population who are, by choice or fate, the In-Betweeners.
Until that time, we will remain in what-the-fuck-is-happiness limbo and mull over some of our ideas of what it might be. Like these, for example:
Maybe happiness is a memory—an abstract one, or a miraculously remaining trinket, like the “best” half of a blue, sparkly best friends locket set that was given to me outside of my first-grade classroom under the pretense that we needed to talk about whose mom was picking us up from school.
Maybe happiness can happen at the same time as angst, like the first time real sadness hits us, and we feel terrified and ashamed and alone, only to discover that we’re not—there are others, and that alone can be enough to get through.
Maybe happiness is the first time we fall blindly, unabashedly, unreservedly in love—so much so that we are blissfully unaware of the fools we’re making of ourselves in the process.
Maybe happiness comes in heartbreak. Both in those moments where our hearts are too heavy for us to get out of bed, because it’s there that we realize we’re the ones we have to come home to each day, and in that first moment when the heaviness lifts, because it’s there we realize that these feelings of ours don’t last forever.
Maybe happiness is warm cup of coffee in our favorite mug, warming our hands with the welcome of a new day, a new view of an old sky, a yet-to-be-tainted moment of calm and possibility.
Maybe happiness is quietness—the sound of our breath, our heartbeats, our fingers tap-tap-tapping out our thoughts.
Maybe happiness is noisiness—music, voices, animals; reminders of the undeniable and unending life we are surrounded by in every moment, whether we are listening or not.
Maybe happiness is saying yes, is achieving what we thought we couldn’t, is trying even if we don’t want to.
Maybe happiness is saying no, is trusting our instinct, is setting boundaries.
Maybe happiness is weightlessness of floating in the ocean, the knowing of the vast unknown beneath our toes while watching the world above continue to splash and touch and be touched by the sun, content and unconcerned.
Maybe happiness is looking down from a mountain top at the tiny trees and buildings below, the same ones that feel so big from a different vantage point.
Maybe happiness is going back to the familiar faces and streets and cracks in the sidewalk of the towns we grew up in.
Maybe happiness is never going back. Maybe it’s never wanting to see the same sidewalk crack twice and exploring every possible inch of earth we can before our time is up.
Maybe happiness is going against the status quo, is rebelling, is utter independence.
Maybe happiness is responsibility, accountability, showing up and providing for the ones we love.
Maybe happiness is being covered in wrinkles and knowing that each one is an invaluable and irreplaceable letter in the story of our lives—complete, fulfilled, every bucket-list item checked.
Maybe happiness is being covered in wrinkles and knowing that each one is an invaluable and irreplaceable letter in the story of our lives—despite the fact that things didn’t go as planned, that we had to adapt, that it didn’t all work out the way we thought we wanted.
Maybe happiness is one of those things, or seven, or all of them or none of them.
Or, maybe we just need to stop trying to define it, stop trying to send out an aesthetically pleasing manifestation of it to our virtual worlds, and stop thinking that In-Betweeners are any more or less confused than their extreme counterparts.
Maybe happiness is just a thread—sometimes visible, sometimes not; sometimes neatly stitched, others laughably askew—that sews us all into this world day by day.
And when we look back at the end of our lives at this mess of a life we’ve stitched together, we wonder how we ever thought happiness was anything other than the moments we smiled, the moments we felt, the moments we learned.
I think I’ll go mull that over a bit more.
Author: Emily Bartran
Photo: bobi bobi/Flickr