This Little Thing Called “Happiness”

by Jane Moneypenny

I’ve had a fear of happiness for a long time. I realize this sounds both strange and clichéd, but it’s true. It’s not until recently that I’ve begun to feel like I’m 18 again —and no, that isn’t a bad thing. I lost her for awhile in college and the yeas after and then, she suddenly re-emerged wiser, fatter, more confident and ready to take on the world.

My high school morality teacher (yes, we had a class called morality) told us that we shouldn’t view happiness as a goal, but a side effect of the journey. I couldn’t stand the woman or the class, but that one line shifted my entire view of what I and most people define as happiness. The conversation usually goes as follows:

Person A: “What do you want?”

Person B: “Just to be happy.”

For awhile, this feeling of happiness eluded me; it was this weird shifting demon that would slip away just when I reached out to grab it. It scared me for that reason. Everyone compares love to a roller coaster: the higher you go, the harder you fall and I hated that fall. I hated reaching that high point of fleeting joy but knowing that it would come crashing down the next minute. So as much as I claimed to want this so-called “happiness,” I found it more comfort and familiar in never being content. But then I would remember what that teacher said and tried to refocus my goal as simply being confident and happy with who I was and the knowledge that I was always trying to learn from the world around me and be a better person.

I guess I bring this all up because I realized today that I’m happy at that point. Just typing that makes me physically sick, as if I’m cursing myself by officially announcing it. So much that I want to go back and delete the words and keep them at the back of my head in case something horrible goes wrong tomorrow (ok, yeah, I chickened out). Actually, can I just change it to “I’m finally at a point in my life that I know who I am and I’m proud of how far I’ve come and I’m looking forward the future”? Is it weird that I feel uncomfortable about this pride in myself and that I’m proud of all I’ve been through and arrived at this crossroads intact and ready for the next chapter? It’s like this foreign concept and it shouldn’t be!

So I’ll end this with a favorite Robert Frost quote of mine:

In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.