Happiness breeds more happiness. Yes, it’s cliché and yes, it doesn’t help those who aren’t happy.
I found this trick back when I was still dealing with my breakup and it’s been one of the single easiest ways to snap myself into a good mood. I knew I’d walk by a place he’d said he liked to buy clothes every day when I’d be on my way to work. So simply enough, I made it a point to GENUINELY SMILE every time I walked by. It started by blaring whatever music I could find on my iPod to set a mood of happiness and it permeated out from there to the point that I have realized just how much I smile whenever I’m out and about now. I’m pretty sure he’s never seen that… and that’s okay. See, it wasn’t really so much an “I’m so much happier without you, you piece of whatever” as it was “if I smile, I’ll be happy because smiling means I’m happy.”
What got weird about that whole thing was when I started to realize that I was smiling because I was actually happy. That bled into more and more of my life and pretty soon… it’s turned into me being a beaming and giddy nerd. We’re all entitled to our own opinions but in my experience, the “beaming and giddy” variety are the best type of nerds.
None of this is to say that I still don’t have my ups and downs… but I’m glad to feel a paradigm shift toward optimism in my personality. I’ve also rediscovered punk-rock bands that I used to love when I was in HS (basically: music that represented the last time I felt carefree) and gotten tickled at the simple prospect of having fun with the entirely absurd in my writing.
That’s exactly a point that came up at dinner last night. I was discussing “moving on into real life” with one of my artistic minded friends. Aside from the fact that the atmosphere at Red’s was unbelievable (68 degrees outside, the fire pit was on but not oppressive, the outdoor lighting was perfect, the music was amazing song after amazing song, and the vibrancy of life from everyone on the patio was palpable), we were having a conversation about our futures as young people that was not fraught with anxiety. For a great majority of people, finding happiness in life is an ultimate quest. It just so happened that Megan and I were confident that, if only for the next little while, we were doing things that brought us happiness… and we were doing it for OURSELVES. It might not work for everyone but for us, being able to say “I do what I love and it’s going to be my job” is an unbelievably exciting prospect.
The life I want is not routine. It’s not mundane. It’s exciting. It is the closest I can get to stepping into a blue box that is bigger on the inside than the outside and having adventures nobody would ever believe. I’m a 23 year old college student who has been to two major soccer matches in the past two months (on his own money), gotten a beer with his childhood hero, who is writing a comic book that is actually going to be produced, who LOVES food (seriously, my healthiest relationship, from an emotional standpoint, is my affair with Bar-Bee-Que Sauce), who loves movies/tv/comics, who writes movies/tv/comics, and who gets to share all of this with the people in his life whom he loves and holds dear. All this on a server’s budget. I’m not going to give that up because all of it is such an essential part to who I am.
The past year has been all about finding out who I really am and who I am going to be. I’m an American Outlaw, an Emerald City Supporter, a nerd, and the list goes on… but the most important thing is that I have started to figure out how to create my own happiness from life around me. There’s a French proverb that says “Success is the best revenge.” With respect, a quest for vengeance will only get you so far. It’ll take you through pain. It’ll take you right up to the point where you have to have faith in yourself. It’ll get you right to where you have to let go and reach for the next rope to swing on. All it takes is a deep breath, a smile, maybe some Yellowcard, and the faith to say “I’m fucking awesome.” Then, all you gotta do is let go and grab hold of the next rope. So rather than search for success out of a quest for revenge, just smile and be happy.
I have no problem admitting that I’m nearly 24 and I still have a “hero.” I’ve had many heroes throughout my life and this is actually the second soccer player to grace the list (the first is Alexi Lalas). A few years back, there was this blonde dude with all sticky-uppy hair who took the field for the Houston Dynamo. Dude was BRILLIANT in his play. Watching him was like staring into the burning core of a star and being able to see the energy created from the nuclear fusion. He played with a pure passion and love for the game and it was evident every time he took the field (often, commanding the entire flow of the game). I was still an armchair fan when Stuart Holden was suiting up in Dynamo Orange. The spark he showed on the field got me pumped up for every game I managed to catch (which, admittedly, was rare in those days). Then the 2010 World Cup happened and I suddenly cared. There was that blonde dude with the styled hair subbing on for Jozy Altidore during the game against England.
I didn’t really think much of it at the time as he only played about 15 minutes (if I remember correctly) and the scoring was already completed for that game… but as the tournament wore on, I began to wonder about that dude who used to absolutely light it up at Houston. Turns out, he hasn’t exactly had it easy. Serious injury after serious injury (included a shattered knee) threatened to derail his playing career. His family went through a huge loss. Even after the 2010 World Cup appearance, he suffered another serious injury on a bad tackle that has had him off the pitch until about a week ago (he literally just tweeted about having to set three alarms to get up for training with Bolton… yes, it’s 2:45am right now… I’m a night owl… and I love twitter). I started casually admiring the guy because of his perseverance and what I found as I dug a bit deeper into his rehab was that Stuart (can’t quite call him “Stu” because I’m not actually friends with the guy… but by rights, I feel like I should be simply because of how inspired I am by him) is an enormously positive person. Even after the loss of a family member, his mantra (and that of the rest of his family) was (paraphrased): “Let’s look at this as a celebration of life and good memories and be happy because we’re capable of being happy.”
Bottom line is that this dude’s career should be over. Nobody would blame him for throwing in the towel. Nobody would blame him for being sad. But here he is, waking up for practice with the Wanderers. He’s back on the pitch and he’s done it all by being happy. I make no secret of dealing with depression in the past year (most people do at some points in their lives) but the one lesson I learned that got me through it and has stayed with me now (and will be with me into the future) is “Celebrate life and be happy because I’m capable of being happy.”
Happiness breeds happiness. If it’s something so simple as just making sure you smile or if you look to a baby-faced attacking midfielder for inspiration and strength, just do it. Be happy in what you do and how you live. Do what you do because you love it. Live because you love it. It’s worth it. In the end, you may just find yourself a new team to root for in the process.
See ya, Space Cowboy.
(Ed. Yeah, I’m adding Bolton to my list of clubs I support that is at the end of my last post. Pretty simple reason. I’ll root for any team Holden plays for because he’s Holden. Even if the dude never reads this and I never actually meet him… He’s my hero and that’s worth learning chants, screaming myself hoarse, getting a scarf, and enjoying watching my hero work.)