I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness. Recently I moved into a new apartment and I finally feel like it’s all mine. I had been floating for almost 2 years between spaces. When I lived with my ex, we both made so many compromises we weren’t staying true to ourselves. And then living in a huge space (but every two months I thought I was going to move out) didn’t feel right either. And now, I have a home. A place to carve out. In anthropology we call the in between state “liminality.” Neither here nor there, but you’re affected all the same. Being in that state for so long wore on me in ways I didn’t realize. Anxious and restless. Always somewhere else I had to be, but resting - never. Always searching.
Bad things happen. Good things happen. How we react is telling of what our mental state is at the moment. We can’t make others happy, and they can’t do the same for us (the same goes with sadness). It’s the self that decides - and the self is dependent on the mind. This is why it’s important I’m single and finally in a little more of a secure place. You suddenly find your pieces and the things that make you tick. You collect them together —- I think of the berries I used to collect in Minnesota and sometimes I had to reach so far in the thorny bush to get that one raspberry that was ripe and perfect and it fell into the basket with all the rest, and became indistinguishable with the rest —- and they become you. Because: you’re no longer searching for yourself in someone else or in somewhere else.
And of course the “you” in these terms is “me” but I assume other’s have experienced this as well. I feel like I’m starting to come out of some kind of tunnel. Feelings are being resurfaced from months ago. Spring’s sun is in full force and I can’t help be feel all the time that has gone by and see all the change. I think I’m understanding a mid-20 year old’s happiness a little bit more and why it’s so important for me to cultivate myself. By myself. And with some stability. Instability taught me a lot, but I’m done with those lessons. It’s time to act.
When I was a little girl, I liked to lay on my parent’s bed. An old brass bed with old embellishments, I used to play with the metal balls that kept the bars in place. My parents got the yellow quilt comforter from an artisan shop in Vermont (or at least in a hazy memory, that’s where I remember they bought it). The night of the Columbine shooting (and evidently my birthday) on my parent’s bed, I laid on my mom’s lap and she cleaned my ears with a q-tip as we watched the news. Sometimes when I was sad, I would rest my head in her lap and watch TV. Her hands, always soft. Much softer than my hands.
I can’t describe my mother. I tell my friends the funny things my mom says (like that time when she made sex jokes at the dinner table when my college friends from Minnesota visited). But, her compassion leaves me speechless. Quite and subtle. Constant. I think I finally realized her compassion when I was an adult. I was home for the holidays and watching home movies. There was a video of my first grade birthday party. She had organized a magician to come. After, she had provided art supplies and stickers and we could decorate our own goodie bags. On the screen, we all looked so happy. She was off to the side, smiling but not wanting to be interviewed by my dad behind the camera. And there’s something in her eyes, in her smile…
It’s that little moment of honesty in an old VHS tape. It’s those soft hands. It’s the quietness behind the humor that makes me have a lack of words. I guess it’s love. But it feels like so much more than that. And when I think of my mom, or when I talk to her, it’s that feeling that radiates between my ribcage and in my throat. And I feel like the luckiest girl alive because I get to experience that every day. Almost 24 years ago, I was cut from her umbilical cord in an emergency c-section after she and my father tried for almost a decade to have a second child. But I feel so connected to her. Every day, of every moment, even as I travel further in life and farther from home.
— On the road
It’s a Saturday night. I’m in sweatpants, drinking a beer, and writing a long email to my dear friend in Berlin. I sign the email, I take a drink of my obsidion stout, think for a moment and hit send. Seeing the paragraphs on the screen gives me satisfaction. Writing out analogies to express what I’m going through, to simply convey my realizations and feelings, makes me feel complete. It’s not that I have my thoughts “figured out” but it’s because I wrote something.
“Why do I write?” It’s a question writers (whether they call them selves that or not) ask. Maybe once in a while, maybe everyday. Why I write… why I write… I write beacause… I write because it feels good. It’s the simplest answer and the closest to the truth. A blank page or the negative space on a screen is intimdating. And then I try to fill it up. And then I delete things, add other things, decide all of that is crap. And I start over. I condense and elaborate. And then I have an idea. Or maybe originally I had an idea, and then another, and another, and then suddenly my first idea is completely transformed.
I write because it changes me. I once read from a literary theorist, who was comparing orgasms to plot, that after very orgasm a person is different. When I write, I don’t usually have a plan. I have things bouncing around my head, and then I write and begin to push the ideas and thoughts together. They form a clear picture (sometimes). The picture is usually different that what I first thought it was going to be. It’s changed, and those were my thoughts. And if my thoughts are me, then I am changed. I write because it feels good. I take another drink of my obsidion stout, gloss over this post, and click “create.”
She just bought new work shoes. She likes the way it looks, she keeps them clean. And her back hurts a lot less. Her name is Jennifer, she likes “Jenny.” Her and Stan live in a split level house. She used to work at an elementry school, and after school as a crossing guard. She really did think the children were cute, but she tried to not think too hard about them or she got attached. It was all just a job.
She dreams of having a clean house and one day being able to travel to Hawaii again. Back when she and Stan got married, they went on a honeymoon to Florida. Jenny always wanted to go to Hawaii. Her mom was a switch board operator, and her father was a train conductor. The year is 1988, and she was born in 1947.
Jenny works at the local mega grocerystore. The hours are pretty good, but once in a while she has to work the overnight shift. She doesn’t like how eerie it seems outside, that there’s no one. The people who come in all appear to be on drugs and she tries to put on her best non judgemental smile. She reminds herself, its a job.
Last weekend I made myself a big breakfast, a strong pot of coffee, and I watched James Lipton’s interview with Dave Chappelle. I laughed, I watched, I nodded, I agreed. And I was inspired by one of Dave’s annecdotes. Dave said that once he realized he wanted to be a comedian, his father said to him, “Set a price for yourself and never forget it.” When Hollywood got to be too much for Dave, he “bounced to Africa” because he had set that price for himself, like his dad had mentioned.
Yesterday I read an article from Arianna Huffington about Millenials and stress. I’m not sure if it’s because I was raised by babyboomers who throughly believed you gotta work, you gotta pay your dues, the only way to get to the top is to work, even if it’s hard. But, I found that I never set that price for myself. I think it’s archaic to settle for things that aren’t right, or good, or even make us happy. Sure, I believe we do have to learn and respect those above us. But, I don’t think life should boil down to being complacent and allowing us to feel unhappy.
When you think about freedom and work and the prices we set for ourselves, you should think about products. The products of what happens when we’re happy and when we feel as if we’re living how we want to live. You should think about what you’re capable of doing and how you can go beyond that if you’re free. Some of the best things done at Google were results of the 20% of free work time - Gmail, Maps, Calendar… As a Millenial (god, I hate calling myself that), I am a product of the generations before me. And I’m so ready for us to set our own prices and make our own products.