You don’t want to know because you’re happier not knowing. You don’t want to know because what you really want is to judge, to have a reason to say what you wanted to say anyway. You don’t want to know because it’s not what you want to hear.
Yes, of course, happiness, like beauty, is all about the eye of the beholder and perception is objective, and blah blah blah. Tailor your expectations accordingly and the world is your oyster, or possibly some other less slimy delicacy.
Not going to be blowing the lid off of that one today. Instead we are going to take a minute to discuss the happiness of your relatives. More importantly, how fickle and unimportant it is. Maybe don’t read this aloud at Thanksgiving.
Some of us have always been the type to try and make everyone around them happy. Some of us have been the type to make themselves happy and wait for everyone else to fall in line. With any luck both of these people grow up to realize that the people around you matter and should be treated with consideration, but no more or less than yourself. And now humanity is universally self-actualized. Or not.
Assuming a slim majority of us claw our way somewhere into the median spectrum, our work is not yet done. Even when we’ve determined how things should go the people closest to us always seem to present an exception. They aren’t ‘just anyone’. They deserve more time. Or you deserve more of theirs. Or they will forgive you because they have to. (This is not universally bad, and when your mother asks you for help, you do it.) When this throws the happiness scale out of balance its a problem, and its no way to treat people you care about.
Despite how tempting it can be to indulge our desires to control the feelings of loved ones we cannot take responsibility of anyone else’s happiness. That’s their job. We can try not to hurt them. We can empathize when someone else does. But sacrificing your own for theirs is only for married people. And sometimes your children (though their teachers would appreciate it if you told them no sometimes, just for the fun of it).
The pleasant shiny person you’re going to be when your happiness matters as much as everyone else’s will make them happier anyway. Maybe not right away. They’ll have got used to you being their emotional on call chef. But eventually, if they care about you too and see you truly happy, they will be happy too. And then you can skip and frolic and stuff.
I’ve developed something of a lip product addiction, which does not on the surface seem to have much to do with cardigans. But it does. I think about which lip gloss to put in my handbag more than what shirt to wear (an unheard of anomaly) and lust after the clicky packaging on Chanel lipsticks with, admittedly, too much enthusiasm. It’s a bit extreme, a little shallow, and not like me. Or, it wasn’t like me.
The version of me with the laser focused lip preoccupation wears more make-up all the time. She wears dresses and tights more than jeans and jumpers. And only uses tote bags to carry her groceries back from Waitrose. One year ago me had a lot of cardigans. A cardigan for every day of the week, and then some. This had everything to do with being a high school teacher, because adding a cardigan to skinny jeans and metallic flats was my conception of a cute, professional, yet still recognizably feminine, and not completely irrelevant person.
When teaching started to become that thing that will be my job for a while, instead of that thing that I’m doing in between cool and creative writing jobs, a slow creeping terror began to set in. It was subtle and kind of had a poltergeist demon whisper thing going on.
“…this over air-conditioned classroom is the only place you will experience human interaction and it will be with children with the intellectual capacity of grapefruits….”
“…your only creative activity until you retire in 40 years will be to slightly differentiate the same curriculum year after year…and no one will care…”
And other funny things, like
“…you might die here. Wearing a cardigan…”
Hahaha. Not hysterical at all, really. Honestly, eating toddler ravioli cups for lunch was also getting to me. But it was the closet full of cardigans, shoving my over-indulgent dress collection into the dark dusty recesses that most clearly signified the need for change.
Fast forward a year, and I live in the greatest city in the world with amazing friends, hobbies (!), and an unscheduled freedom that gives me time and space to be spontaneous, adventurous, and wear all my dresses. With full awareness that this is a temporary state of being, I’m soaking it up for all it’s worth. Part of me knows that the cardigans are waiting in the aforementioned recesses. And their day may come given the student loan statement I’m currently ignoring. But that day is not today. And there is also a glimmer of hope that another sartorial future awaits. Fingers crossed for lots of hats.
What I am about to say will either confirm everything you’ve ever wondered about the world, or bring it crashing down. That’s right, get some tea or something. Epiphany moment. Right here.
There’s no such thing as an “adult”.
Doesn’t exist. Complete fabrication by the pharmaceutical companies to ascertain appropriate dosage. Entirely inappropriate label otherwise.
Everyone thinks they’re so cool and mature when they say they are doing something like a “grown-up”, which, of course, implies that you are not and they are better than you. I am not saying that I have not employed this tactic myself. Honestly, it is usually my less harsh version of indicating that I find someone too stupid to converse with. But this does not mean there is any validity to the term.
We are all just children with money and shame. Go watch children playing and marvel at the truth of this. Or don’t, because that’s kind of creepy. Dating feels like kindergarten because it is. We’re just dressed better (hopefully) and have a slightly more varied diet.
This does not mean that there is not something to be said for ageing. Over time we gain subtlety. We need less to be going on because we see so much more in the same moments and things. It is not just a dress; it’s silk, and tailored, and hugs one curve while skimming over another. Someone didn’t just make you a sandwich; they thought about your needs and what you like and took time out of their life to please and care for you, and you appreciate that.
This also can mean we are a bit more fragile and a bit more defensive, and the natural consequence is that we don’t need to hit to let someone know we want to hurt them. We have lies and insults and betrayal for that.
Yes, we mature into more complex people, but some parts take much longer than others and certain individuals need space to be five years old sometimes. Parents don’t know how to solve every problem. World leaders and nations are not immune to threats or offence. We are all making it up as we go. Trying to be ‘adult’ is the best we can hope for.
Not out of the toilet, in the toilet. Or the room where the toilet was. Except there are still a couple toilets in there. But there is also a bar. And a piano. All makes sense now, right? No? Well then you are clearly not cool enough to grasp the trendy awesome that is the oh so cleverly titled new dive (haha, that’s funny because it’s underground) Ladies & Gentlemen in Kentish Town, London. The good news is that I am hardly cool enough to leave Zone 1 at all and they still let me in and gave me booze. They waited for me to ask for directions, or an actual bathroom, when I first walked in (blonde ponytails being something of a rarity in this part of town) but let me sit down at my upright piano of a table all the same.
Even though I knew exactly where I was going I still managed to walk right by it. There were a few minutes of exploration of North London at night that we can get into another time. This is very easy to do because it does in fact appear to be a loo- with cement stairs leading to an industrial metal door. Luckily, contrary to all appearances, things did not evolve in a Saw 7 direction, and instead went to a more hipster speak easy place. When you, literally, come through the curtain the bar is small, but not cramped, cosy and charming- not least because of the jolly beardy bartenders. The Ladies’ Old Fashioned is in no way an anti-feminist statement (which you would know just by the generous alcohol content, if you try it) but a complement to the name of the establishment. Their very tasty and most Instagrammable cocktail is the Rhubarb and Custard. I hate gin, and it has gin, but you can not taste the gin, only sweet dessert-y goodness served in a custard powder tin.
If you are anything like me, your first thought is how many times can one reuse a custard tin as a drinking receptacle before it disintegrates through washing and use? Approximately ten times. Or possibly that never occurred to you and you don’t care. Or, now you are wondering what happens to all the custard powder…
The music is not so loud that you can’t catch up with friends without screaming, and not so quiet that you can hear everyone else’s friends (and they can hear you forgetting the chorus to the oldies cover that just came on). All in all it made for an excellent mid-week night out that I intend to repeat.
Would a fishtail braid make me look more edgy?
I know I’m not the only one who thinks about all the other eras in time I would fit into better. Some of us voraciously read historical fiction yearning for customs and attitudes that belong to another age. Some people think they would just look better in drop waist shift dresses and want to go back to the 1920s. Whatever the reason, when we feel out of place it’s somehow comforting to think that a flaw in the time space continuum is to blame. That we were born too late (or too early?) for the slice of reality fate dropped us into.
In all the best ways I have felt like, having moved to England, I was granted the sparkling chance to experience the best parts of connecting with people based on a set of rules that are typically only found between cardboard covers. When you really think about going back to your ideal time you then have to face the vagaries of the whole picture. Things like the plumbing situation. Classist, racist, sexist, etcetera prejudices present wherever you saw yourself. And the likelihood of your early and untimely death due to war, disease, malnutrition, tooth decay, and/or childbirth (okay, you might not die of tooth decay, but gross). These do not make for pleasant books or films though. Or daydreams. Though Outlander is making a good stab at it. So, while I will never be presented for the season, or painted in oils, I get to break up with my boyfriend for not respecting my political ideals without anyone batting an eye.
Luckily our appetite for wondering “what if…” can be satisfied through our usual forms of escapism- glowing screens- while still maintaining our superpowers of pause and microwave popcorn. Woody Allen reminded us that this phenomenon is not new, and it isn’t old, it simply is human to think of yourself sometime else when you’re not where you want to be in Midnight in Paris. Sometimes its just a matter of a little rewind within your slice, which has been gloriously granted to us in 90’s flashback Hindsight, and Life on Mars. We are not going to get into all of the immortal scenarios because I feel like that comes from a different psychological place, and the beauty and drama that comes with being a person somewhen depends on our fragility, our time limit.
In this case I am not referring to dreams when you are asleep dreams (though obviously those can also be nightmares; like the one I had yesterday where all the hardware disappeared from my handbag and my laptop crumbled in my hands…*shudder*) Anyway. I’m talking about the other kind of dream. The “Dream big!” kind. The “Dream come true!” kind. The kind that has the thing(s) you really, really want in this slice of existence.
Depending on personal philosophy, parenting, mental imbalances, and available cash we all have different perceptions of how possible acquiring or fulfilling our dreams will be, and deciding what our dreams are. Sometimes our dreams choose us, but either way people and circumstances are going to get in your way and every challenge presents the possibility of giving up on the dream, or getting past what’s in your way and getting a little bit closer. This part we’re all familiar with.
But what about when you find out you are finally going to meet your dream and you’re plagued with a month-long panic attack that you are going to completely fuck it up in some way? No one talks about that part. That’s where the wands come in during Disney movies. And upbeat music montages are edited in during all other movies. No one shares the step between trying your hardest and singing on the mountain top, where you hyperventilate, and eat chocolate with every breath, and you develop a twitch trying to suppress crazy eyes every time someone asks if “you’re excited??” (It is also possible I have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, but lets ignore that for the time being).
To be clear, I am not saying “be careful what you wish for” because I do not believe that dreaming is the time to be careful. I believe the opposite in fact. Dream as if there are no consequences whatsoever. But this phase, the post-struggle-pre-having stage is the time for care and planning and details. Evidently it is also the time for alcohol. Or whatever form of relaxation and heart rate reduction you prefer. Because the reality of something that has only ever manifested in your imagination is overwhelming and feeling all the feels associated with its fruition is part of the experience. I wouldn’t give up these moments of helpless emotional and physical gasping (even if I will self medicate them) because it just goes to show how monumentously great it is to wrap your hands around the object of your obsession/affection/heart’s desire.
If it isn’t an overwhelmingly great thing to have, is it worth wanting in the first place? I’m calling it a win. I’m also calling my mother. If you haven’t let anything get between you and what you want, don’t let fear be the thing that does.