Pursuit of Happiness

December 2, 2012

A curious thing happened the other day as I waited for the train to arrive. Usually I wait on the track in Newark, bundled in my winter clothes, listening to the random music booming from my iPod. On this day, however, I chose to call my brother. Matt is a brother in the way that family is not always by blood. His mother had one other child, my half-sister Jenny. Jenny and I share a father and Matt and Jenny share a mother. Matt and I share no actual blood relation. We were raised as if we were one family though and I have never questioned this. Matt answered his phone and told me all about what his kids are doing in school and asked me an assortment of questions about my current situation in New Jersey. He has never lived in New Jersey, nor do I believe he has ever even visited. He spoke for a while about the differences in where we live and then the curious thing happened: He mentioned that I speak to my family more and how I seem much happier than I ever have been. 


High Scores

Matt was absolutely right in his assertion that I am much happier than I ever have been. He was also correct in pointing out that I speak to my family much more. That is the curious thing though. It had never occurred to me that my general state of being was readily noticeable to anyone other than myself. Both of these events seemed to be linked, in any case, and he just noticed both. I am happy and therefore I speak to my family more. This extends past my family as well. I speak to many of my friends that I lost somewhere in the transition from college to normal life and back to college (since the troubles of a normal life can’t possibly be as fulfilling as the troubles of a normal life + college life). Happiness is directly linked to my social connectivity. This is a great thing in my opinion. I also must comment on the fact that I have never really had much of a social life during high school. This is the first time in 7 years that I’ve begun to build my social circles. So, then, I must think about what happiness actually is.

Happiness, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is:

Happiness: a state of well-being and contentment 

I can’t think of a time where, in the past 7 years, I have not felt well in a general sense of the word. The second descriptive word in that definition is the one that sticks out to me. Contentment. It’s hard to say when the last time it was that I felt content. Life has a way of moving so quickly that we, as a people, never slow down to appreciate moments and think about how we feel in connection to them. In the years since the start of high school I have separated myself from emotional connectivity to life (In Star Trek terms, I graduated to Spock or Data status). My decisions were largely based in the logical (Vulcans for Life). Logic is a cold thought process. I made many decisions in the hopes of furthering my life in what made sense without considering how I actually felt about my decisions. Life just happened and it was as though I was playing an intricate game to see if I could get a higher score (Life: more than just a depressing board game or cereal). 

The Star Trek Connection

So, then, I must wonder what it is that has caused such a change in me. Why is it that I am now happy and able to filter my thoughts through a screen of understanding and emotion (Maybe I am more like Data. I was totally updated with an emotion chip)? This is a far easier question to answer for myself now than it was just a short while ago. Love (I stopped in the name of it). For all of the cheesy romance and cliché movies that are rotating in the theatres, they largely get one thing correct. Love can do amazing things (I’ve yet to see it fight a bear). 

Story Time

It was nearly two years ago when I dialed the number of a nearby Starbucks Coffee shop to speak with the manager who was interested in hiring me. The voice that answered, however, was not the voice of the manager. The voice was soft and sweet. The girl on the other end of the line seemed nervous to speak into the phone. I asked to please speak to the manager. “The manager isn’t in right now,” she said, “but you can call back.”

“Okay,” I replied. A phone call later in the day revealed that this young girl meant to call back “another day”. Apologetically, she explained, and I listened, once again, to her soft voice. 

As inconsequential as this may seem, the ramifications of these events proved to be long lasting. I quite liked the voice of the girl on the phone. I wondered what her name could be. Shortly after speaking to the manager on another day, I was invited to the store to be informed of the new “Seasonal Beverages” that would be debuting in just a week or two. As I waited at the front of the store, huddling close to the only friend that I had working there, I saw a tiny figure walk through the doors (not little person tiny--regular sized people tiny). Her hair was long and brown. Her eyes were green and surrounded by beautiful dark eyelashes. Her expression seemed nervous at the amount of people now invading her place of work. This was the girl. I knew it. 

We barely spoke. I found out much later that she assumed that she “freaked” me out with how intense she could be. Soon a friendship bloomed and conversations sprang from books and cartoons that we both held in high regard (If you are reading this and you don’t appreciate the Powerpuff Girls, I will lose all respect for you and punch you). She was smart. She knew of the books that were of a “cult” status that I enjoyed. Some of my favorite books later came from her suggesting I should try them. At the mention of a name, I would dash home and order a copy (Internet shopping is far more fun than dealing with smelly book store people. Seriously. You can’t shower before you go to a bookstore? What’s up with that?). The next couple of weeks would pass with me gleefully poring through pages. The simple truth is that we understood each other. 

All of this is quite essential in understanding how happiness came to be a part of my life and how that led me to be a better person. It is without a doubt that I can say the positivity that fills one’s heart can lead to a better outlook and, thus, a welcoming demeanor to the general public. All people have the choice to be a good person. Many people choose to do good things. Few are those that choose to be good. That is human nature, and there is nothing wrong with this. We all make decisions that aren’t the best and we all cause grief. Misanthropy, until very recently, permitted me to only see those people that choose to do wrong and think that good people are almost extinct. 

At the time of meeting the beautiful young girl who I met through the phone, Julia, both she and I were seeing other people (Technically, we saw lots of people, but we were “dating” other people). We were friends, however, and continued a secret admiration for each other. Eventually her relationship ended and mine became troubled. Denying any real sort of tension between the two of us became commonplace. She was, and remains, a constant in my thoughts, however, and there was a noticeable attraction.

A year would pass before anything progressed. I eventually ended my relationship. Julia and I shared several conversations about the nature of our feelings for each other and transformed our friendship into a relationship. Leaving my old apartment behind so that I no longer had to live with my now ex-girlfriend and paying her for the rest of the lease term so that there was no financial burden on her part, I embarked on a homeless adventure (like Lord of the Rings with more hobos). My friend Phil graciously allowed me to sleep on an air mattress in his living room. This is where things get oddly progressive.

Progressive: Not Just for Cars Anymore

If there is one thing that living in a trying time can reveal to you, it is that the graciousness of others is astounding. Phil, a friend with whom I’d worked for about a year and rarely saw outside of our jobs, had offered me a place to stay for as long as I needed it. Several other friends offered to find me a place to stay, regularly check on my state of being, and, in one particular case, offered a variety of furniture and appliances for when I found my new place. The misanthropic views that dominated my life began to bleed away. The original and more optimistic demeanor began to flourish. I had many friends and family members who loved me enough to offer whatever they could. Human nature proved that I was wrong. 

Shut up Ackbar!

Julia’s involvement increased my new belief structure. Several long-standing phrases in reference to a significant other tend to deal with the analogy of a “ball and chain”. The mere idea of a relationship becomes seen as a trap (Admiral Ackbar style). The confines of the situation become the bars to your cell. Stepping into my relationship with Julia was not this way. It was actually the opposite. The moment we crossed the line into a romantic involvement I felt a strong sensation of being free. There is nothing more bliss inducing than feeling as though you’ve been set free. Our attraction had been stifled for so long that we were forced to know each other as people, as friends, before moving forward. The love and respect we shared only grew with each day that we saw each other. Finally, once neither of us could handle it anymore, we surrendered to our desire for each other and my happiness cemented. There is a moment that, if you feel it, you will always remember. That moment is the knowledge that what you are doing is right. That moment is realizing how freeing life can be with the right person next to you. That moment is the knowledge of a real love. 

It is amazing to see the confines of life peel away and know a compassion for your fellow man once again. The friends and family that offered their love and support will always be remembered. The love that I feel will always remain. Once negative views are stricken from possibility, positivity can rule. So I call my dad and my brother while waiting for the train. I text my sister while sitting through class. I have frequent outings with friends and friends of friends. I build my circles. Social structures no longer mock me. In this way, I earned my happiness. These are the moments to which people refer when they say, “things have to get worse before they can get better”. It isn’t necessarily that things must become negative. They, instead, must force you to rely on the understanding and graciousness of those that are close to you. I refused to see that these things could exist until forced into a situation where it was made apparent. 

I live, now, knowing that this world exists. 

I am happy. Thank you.

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