I consider myself a lot of things, but happy is honestly not near the top of the list.
Quick, hardworking, methodical, clever, determined, content. All of those are adjectives I would probably place next to myself if asked. But happy? No. Frankly, I’m not even exactly sure what that looks like or would feel like or means.
Of course I’m speaking in an exaggerated manner. Obviously I know happy people and I know what it looks like when someone is a bubbly, smiley, effervescent person. I know my co-worker who snapchats how excited she is about the bright red cherry tomatoes in her salad is a happy person. I know my best-friend with his loving fiancé and bloodhound puppy is a happy person. I know the barista below my apartment who gets to work with his wife and always asks me how “the writing is going” is a happy person.
But me? I don’t really know what that feels like. My base level of existing is a 4.7 out of 10 on the happiness scale. Get me to a 7 and I’m on fire with joy and don’t really know what to do with myself or my hands. I honestly don’t think I’ve crossed an 8 since I saw an live orca calf in the wild.
I think I used to be a happy person. Maybe like…five years ago I was. I was living in a quintessential Manic Pixie Dream Girl apartment complete with a thrift store rug, cacti, and no dishwasher. I had a boyfriend I was enamored with and we went to the farmer’s market together and fell asleep without the aid of Netflix. I would walk my dog most mornings along a fucking river for crying out loud.
And if you had asked me then, I would have told you yes, of course I was happy.
But if you ask me now I’d simply tell you that I didn’t really know any better and that people change.
My dad used to tell me when I was growing up that he didn’t care what I grew up to be, as long as I was happy. When I think about that now there’s a part of me that A) understands he was being a great parent because at that time my greatest career aspiration was being one of the mice from The Rescuers and B) wonders if he knew that wasn’t necessarily going to happen. Because these days I honestly would equate happiness, true unbridled happiness, with giving up a lot of what makes me other things. Like determined, methodical, and content.
It’s probably (read: undoubtedly, duh) true what they say; that we all have our own paths in life. And in order for happiness to be part of my path, all I can see are the things I would have to stop clinging to so steadfastly in order to achieve it. In order to get the thing I don’t have, I would have to toss into the air the things I do with no promise that they would come back. And I like clinging onto things like my work, my solitude, my stubbornness. So while liking those things might not equate to an overall happiness maybe, for me at least, that’s completely okay.
This could be the part of the essay where I say something like, “You can’t have sunshine without rain clouds!” but it’s not. But it is the part of the essay where I’ll say that some of that contentment I’ve grown so protective over has come from the acceptance that maybe we don’t get to have it all. That the idealistic dream of having everything you want, unbridled and unabashed happiness included, isn’t necessarily in your path.
Think about it. If the world was filled to the brim with completely unapologetically, honestly happy people, would anything ever get done? I don’t think so. I think in order to have a functioning world that allots for happy people, you have to have some people who constantly exist on a level of “just okay” to balance everything out.
Maybe we don’t all get to be happy.
And maybe that’s okay.
Or maybe, it’s just my perpetual curmudgeon coming out and infecting the world with my supposed cynicism.
Whatever makes you happiest to believe is fine by me.