Lately, as I indulge in my never ending quest of self-discovery, I’ve been thinking a lot about the U-bend of happiness, a somewhat theory that suggests people beyond middle-age get happier as they get older. I first came across the idea three months ago, while reading a candid interview Gloria Steinem did with a Glamour editor. As I was cynical about the concept the instant I grasped what it is, I decided to give it more thought, for sake of Gloria the Glorious.
Naturally, I thought of happiness and what I associate it most with: my dreams, aspirations, and of course, my lovely youth. Since very early ages, I was told to appreciate my youth, my innocence and the future lying in front of me full of excitement and opportunities. Surrounded by adults with their bittersweet advices and tired smiles, I was never eager to grow up. I enjoyed being a kid and not worrying about anything really, except that time I fell off a bike and had to lie down for two days- I thought I was on my deathbed.
Then as I grew a little older, my parents’ endless drama and fatal attraction came into my life, telling me both to know my place as a child, yet putting me through situations and feelings that no kid should have to face. Problems seemed to get bigger and nastier with age. Maybe that is why, I always thought, to this day, that I will probably be miserable when I’m old.
Let’s face it, young people are more driven and full of hope and energy while the “adults” I was surrounded with, although they found ways to make me extremely happy, found their escape and redemption in the very depressing truth that nothing will change, that while your individual existence and its memory fade away day by day, the world will stay the same.
This realization comes to most with experience and age. What about those like me, or my ex boyfriend for that matter, who would spend a whole night drinking whiskey and crying over how evil and unfair the world is, before he passed out mumbling verses about the moon and the stars. We, who are very much aware of the utter nonsense of things? Are we doomed?
No, I refuse to be doomed. I just can’t imagine myself in that position, I couldn’t bare to lock myself in a room and do nothing except pitying earth and its creatures.
“You are just kidding yourself,” my ex-boyfriend would say, but then again, this is the reason we are not together anymore. Although I am far from being an optimist and have been haunted by the nihilism of Russian writers for many sleepless nights myself, I refuse to be miserable. I want to enjoy this life, the ultimate once in a lifetime experience, as much as I can, while the things I stress about will all seem futile in the end.
I seek happiness and fulfillment. And maybe, my happiness too, lies in accepting that truth my parents were successful at carving inside my head. It was them also, who taught me one of the best feelings in the world is helping others. Loving your children more than you love yourself and spending your time with as much pleasure as possible, since we “all go back to Earth.” Maybe that is my way of being happy, a little bit of fooling yourself, distracting yourself from the obvious painful truth with delicacies of Earth, with all its peculiar and spectacular creatures– with nature and adventure.
Being young almost seems to be an escape route from the truth, the intoxicating recklessness that thrives in you, the endless possibilities lying ahead of you. I recall writing into one of the hundreds of little notebooks I carry around, exactly two and a half years ago. I was about to land in LAX to check out colleges before driving up to San Francisco with my cousin for a weekend full of liquor, Pink Floyd, The Smiths, existential dread, and bits of Ginsberg’s poetry spread around my hangovers. I put down in my notebook, full of anticipation, “Melancholy doesn’t last very long when you are young,” making fun of my mood swings between excitement, boredom and frustration over the lack of meaning most of our sufferings suffer from.
Then I remember two summers ago, fresh out of high school, full of hope and burning desire, I was in love for the first time. I carried his heart in mine. I remember dropping acid and MDMA on an island with 70 other people, dancing and running around in the forest, in the middle of nowhere. I remember the perfect bliss of my sunkissed skin touching his and how good the cold water felt between my thighs, shivers up my neck as I dived in and had nothing to hide from the creatures of the sea. Those few days of complete, utter bliss, my body moving around with raw feelings, passion, hunger, thirst, and fire.
I remember a freezing balcony in Amsterdam, three years ago, a warming conversation I had with a dear friend while the wind hurt our eyes and blew out our cigars. We talked about the human urge for creation, and what happens to one when there isn’t an actual act of creation, millions of lives dull and unlived, while we sat there on Dragon’s Dynamites, stripping ourselves from arrogance, as words poured out of our mouths without judging one another.
I think of that exquisite feeling you get when you develop an infatuation for someone and how they seem to perfectly fit your world. The rush of knowing someone new and becoming someone new yourself, because nothing is settled just yet.
I think of my strong desire to travel around the world, experiencing all things new and filthy, gorgeous, and glorious. Making new cities my home, and looking for the mad ones, Kerouac marvellously described, “the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’”
These are the gifts of my youth, the things that make me feel alive and happy. Appreciation of an intelligent, witty companion, physical and mental experience of immense pleasure and exploring, as escape through travel indeed works. I must admit, I am terrified of losing these things in my life as I grow old and exhausted.
I am scared that the fact that world is indeed an evil place will haunt me when I am on my deathbed or something, or in an unguarded moment, that I can’t grab on a distraction as it creeps up to me now. I am terrified that I will go to eternal sleep miserable one day, with the lust of things undone, books never read, songs never heard, skins untouched, faces never met and souls never known. Or worse, I am terrified to lose interest in others, as everyone and everything dissolves into one big piece of disappointment.
God’s most cruel joke, knowing that we will all die one day, that all is nothing but every moment, every step counts because they shape the one life you are given is very depressing yet liberating. Focusing on what gives me pleasure, without forcing myself to ignore the unbearable pain and injustice of the world, without numbing myself down, doing my best to face the sun; my best to bring joy into the lives of others because hell, we are all in this together, and just letting go of the rest. Maybe this is my salvation, just living and living until one day, I don’t.
Maybe the most sensible way to make that old grumpy lady I will turn into eventually is to collect beautiful memories, follow that thrill and hope it lasts, so that she wouldn’t condemn me for not making use of my youth but envy me as she indulges in her most precious books, sipping on her Cognac, hiding her pills under the pillow, as she sits on her couch by the shore in Capri. Then again, maybe it is just my foolish, hopeful, young self talking and U-bend of happiness doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, as I suspected. I guess time will show.