The presumed goal is to be in a state of perpetual happiness. To broadcast only your happiness, because it isn’t fashionable to reveal your weaknesses. To tell someone that you’re feeling lonely or sad is not particularly sexy. Ironically quipping that you want to die or wish someone would run you over with a truck, preferably in meme form, however, is permissible. Public displays of negative emotion are not welcome, a definite no thank you.
But despite all the self-help books that promise foolproof guides to achieving and maintaining a state of perfect, pristine happiness, it’s just not realistic. It’s okay to sometimes have sudden, unprompted moments of deep loneliness that bring tears to your eyes while riding public transport, either tilting your head back to prevent them from spilling over or else discreetly wiping them away. Crying is okay too — in fact, everyone should do more of it, especially men, since it’s proven to have beneficial effects on your health and repressing the hell out of it (seeing as you were probably socially conditioned that way), is obviously Not Good. If you find yourself being crippled by sadness on a day-to-day basis to the point where it’s affecting all aspects of your life, then obviously, that’s Not Good either. But to a smaller degree, people are sad sometimes. It’s okay to admit that.
Someone once told me that she called her antidepressants “happy pills”. And I wondered if I too, was depressed because I felt a immediate longing for the fantasy that the term evoked. A continued state of simplistic happiness, unburdened by deeper emotion. But perhaps it is the fallacious and yet deep-rooted social stigma surrounding depression, or the age-old Asian skepticism towards the concept of paying wads of money to an absolute stranger to listen to your problems, or both, but I’ve self-diagnosed myself and decided that I am not quite there yet.
In the absence of happy pills, I search for pockets of happiness. The sensation of tart blueberries bursting in your mouth, sunshine dancing orange on closed eyelids, the warmth of skin touching yours, the jolt of giddy anticipation when a text from that person appears on your screen, violently pink sunsets. That quiet sensation of content washing over you as you sit with someone in uninterrupted silence, because people that you can enjoy silences with are rare treasures. The sweet scent of freshly mowed grass, wet sand sifting between toes, the ache in your ribs when you laugh too hard, the feeling of being held tightly, fingers interlaced together, two hour phone calls with friends, a handwritten message meant only for you, sun-drenched laundry, soft kisses. The glow of a sincere compliment, feeling like a child all over again, a shiny gold star. Some moments, I lock away and take them out from time to time to relive that burst of happiness.
On the other hand, I have a phone charger that features a poop emoji on the cover cheerfully proclaiming, “forget shit and move on”. Indeed, I’ve found that happy moments tied to a specific event or person that eventually soured all become tainted and lose their healing power, and therefore I discard those memories too. I choose to forget what hurt me. I run away from my problems and ignore them, like a proper adult. I retain only the purely good moments that remain, like gold in a sieve, and hold them close to me.
To be clear, I am not advocating that people spit on therapy or livestream their crying sessions for public viewing. I am merely saying that it’s quite all right for people to be frank about being unhappy sometimes, and that one should cherry-pick the good moments, let go of the rest. Resentment and anger are heavy emotions to carry. Don’t treat your friends like therapists, but find friends that you can confide in honestly and enjoy silences with. Shake an emotionally unavailable man and tell him to just unlearn all those years of gender socialization and just fucking cry on cue, for God’s sake. Let’s stop obsessively pursuing happiness as an end-all goal. Find the pockets of happiness in your past, learn to recognize and savor those moments when they happen to you in the present, and anticipate those future moments. It’s not a high you should always be struggling to maintain, but rather a wiggly line with little unexpected pockets of happiness in between that you can collect as they come.
Be happy (sometimes) and cry great, heaving, ugly snot tears (sometimes). It’s all about the balance, darling.