The other night, an old friend from high school asked me a totally insane question.
What is the best and worst thing you have ever done in your life?
Now granted, we were like, three bourbons in here, but I was surprised how quickly my answer came.
Moving to Hawai’i.
Now, I know. I’ve written about this before – how torn I am between Manhattan and the Big Island, and all the things I have here, and all the things I have there, and how homesick I get, and I know you don’t need to read it again.
I’m here to talk about something else.
The best thing I have ever done for my life is move to Hawai’i. My seasonal depression has significantly decreased. I have access to all the Vitamin D and fresh air that I want. I don’t feel rushed, I don’t feel panicked, and most importantly, I don’t have to wait for a local A train at the end of the night.
I know that the lessons and all the books say that you can’t find happiness by chasing new destinations all the time. Wherever you are, there you are. And you have to find happiness inside yourself, no matter where you’re living.
I agree with that.
I also think there’s more to it though.
I think that if someone is living in a place that’s gray, cold, busy, frustrating, loud, sad, boring, or stifling, that it can absolutely add misery to an already unsatisfactory life. True, if you’re already depressed, you don’t just lose the depression at the security gate when you board the plane for someplace warmer. But if you’re already suffering from depression and anxiety, and you live in a place that you hate, it’s like marinating sadness in a big bowl of more sadness.
If you visited Chicago once, and really felt the vibe there, and you want to try it out, but you’re already experiencing a sort of melancholy or unhappiness, you’re still allowed to move to Chicago and try it out. You don’t have to figure out all the answers to your unhappy state before you’re allowed to make a life change. People may lecture you, and they may warn you that happiness won’t just take over your life once you move to Chicago, but it’s okay for you to say, I know, you’re right, but there are things about the place that bring me more joy than where I am right now, and I think it’s worth a try.
I feel like there are so many rules around happiness anymore. There’s listicles of ways to make your morning happier, your relationship happier, your body happier, your home happier. And I don’t know about you, but I’m sort of numb to them now. Because I keep scrolling, reading all of the obvious answers about colored paints and fruity teas and grow irritated wondering if anyone is ever just gonna get real about happiness.
Happiness is not guaranteed. It’s not consistent. It’s not something you can change with a snap of a finger and a purchase of a journal of happiness quotes with happiness pictures and lines for happiness thoughts.
It’s moments really. It’s moments that come and go, and it’s the memories that come along with those moments, which can sometimes turn into nostalgia which can almost turn into a sadness because you miss those happy times so much that it hurts your heart a little bit. And it’s learning to appreciate them. It’s learning to appreciate them. One more time for good measure, it’s learning to appreciate them. It’s brunch. Or it’s not. It’s a fun Halloween. Or it’s finding hummus on sale. Or it’s finding out you don’t need a new battery for your car. Or it’s a soft sleep shirt. Or it’s a new haircut. Or it’s great sex.
Yea, I’m breaking the rules. I think that getting a haircut you love can bring you great joy in the mirror every day. I also think a haircut you hate can really give you a shitty morning for many weeks until it grows out. Maybe it’s not the end of the world. But if it brings you joy, or it brings you cringes, like, it contributes to your happiness level. Point blank.
Also, yes, I think people can bring you happiness. I know our happiness shouldn’t lie in the hands of others, but I also think there are people in this life who make me really happy. And when I’m really, really sad, to have them on my couch with me, brings me comfort and a semblance of joy. I think human contact is happiness. Hand holding, hugs, kisses, and eye contact have the ability to recharge the heart. Obviously, sex holds the same capabilities, along with the complications it may bring, but let’s face it. Great sex is like, just happy. Like it’s so happy though.
A compliment can bring happiness. I think we need to find our own confidence that we get to keep to ourselves, that no one can take away, but I don’t think it’s wrong of us to find joy in a compliment and add it to our collection of confidence. I think that’s okay.
I think shopping is okay. I think buying a new set of rocks glasses with a leopard print trim for my old-fashioned at the end of the day can be happiness. I think a pair of comfortable heels to wear to a wedding is one of the greatest gifts on God’s green earth. I think giving gifts is some of the greatest happiness I’ve ever felt, and it supports all the no-no’s; consumerism, materialism, and superficiality. I think it’s great.
I think saying I love you is happiness. I think hearing it is happiness. I think a good friend texting you to pick her up at the airport at Christmastime is happiness. Imagine the gummi bears and conversation we’re going to have while we’re stuck in holiday traffic. I think air conditioning is happiness. Like, I feel unhappy, and itchy, and disgusting, when my bra is soaked in sweat.
If we are only finding happiness in these things, if we can only find happiness with shopping, sex, or those old-fashioned’s, then yes, we’re out of whack. We’re out of balance. We might need help. But still, we’re not doing it wrong. We just need to adjust – maybe with the help of friends, maybe with the help of doctors. I’m not condoning addiction. But I am saying that shopping, sex, and old-fashioned’s enjoyed in moderation can bring happiness to a person and that’s okay.
I think there are levels of happiness that sometimes we forget about when we’re working through our shit. It’s not always an ultimate high, and it’s not always something that sticks around all day. Hell, it’s not even something sticks around for the full hour. Maybe lunch break at a job we hate is the happiest hour of our day, and until we figure out what else we want to do, we cherish that hour. That’s okay. Again, you’re not doing it wrong.
We could either chastise ourselves for all the things we do that brings us happiness even though according to the spiritual leaders and the self-help books, it’s not what real happiness is. Or we could enjoy the fleeting moments when someone hands us a fruity cocktail and puts Mr. Jones on the jukebox and we are inclined to literally scream at the top of our lungs, I AM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW. I think that life is more worthwhile enjoying those moments, than constantly keeping an even keel and remembering that everything could come crashing down tomorrow.
Chances are, the crash is coming. Chances are, we’ll sleep through our alarm tomorrow, lock our keys inside the car, and spill coffee on our white jeans. But while we tell the story about it to our best friend and laugh about how this is the sixth time that this has happened, this month, we are allowed to relish in the fleeting moment of happiness that comes with camaraderie, joking, and self-deprecation.
Enough with the rules. Enough with the Pinterest quotes. It’s a journey. With three trillion stops. Forty-five of them might be today. In between the shit, we’re allowed to celebrate all forty-five however we see fit. And if that involves champagne and footed pajamas with the curtains closed while you binge watch Parks & Rec for the fourth time through, then so be it. Happiness is [insert your preferences here]. Maybe it’s people, maybe it’s food, maybe it’s sleep, maybe it’s sunshine. As long as you keep a balance between it all, which is literally impossible but is also the key to sanity, and always come back to your gut, and what you’re really feeling like you need inside and why, then no self-help book has the right to tell you that you’re doing it wrong.
Happiness is a romance. Court it. Get nervous when it doesn’t text you back. Let those nerves drive you into an aggressive state. And then when you overdo it, take a step back and cover your head with pillows until you’re ready to go outside and try it again. Anything can add to your happiness – just don’t let one thing take over and control it all. Or do. And learn from it afterward.
No more rules. Just deep breaths and genuine appreciation for all the stupid little moments that make our lives great. Regardless of the best and worst thing you’ve ever done in your life, there’s bound to be some amazing memories in there that have made you who you are today. And that’s fucking cool.
Finally, thanks to the friends who ask the insane questions. You make me appreciate shit that I take for granted. You make me think. You make me laugh at my mistakes. You make me want more. And yea, people, you make me happy. In a world where happiness can go missing at any given moment, I cherish you more than anything. Mahalo for your time.