Rio Atuel

Are You Happy?

My friend’s aunt is dying. She has cancer. I wonder. When she was my age, if aware she had 31 years of breath left, would she have made different choices?

I guess we never really know what’s going through the minds of others.

So much of our lives is about fitting in. Doing what others expect of us. Holding the right opinion. Owning what we don’t need. So few of us stop and consider what we really, truly want. I think most of us would be surprised to learn that coveting an object temporarily fills a void.

Do you need that big house? Do you need that fancy car? Are you consuming all of these objects for yourself, and if so, is that maybe a bit tragic? Stuff is essentially meaningless, it only brings temporary happiness. Are you attempting to live your life to appear a certain way to others?

I keep hearing people say that this isolation is a time for us to really change how we do things. What most people are saying is external, they’re not looking inward. You sometimes have to dig deep inside of yourself to make your life more fulfilling. You have to cut through the wounds to heal. You have to face the underworld.

I observe how so many of my friends and peers are concerned with the temporary. What’s going to satisfy them now. It’s either food, or a drink, or some object. An article of clothing.

Last night I found these 9 year old photographs of myself. I’m 32 in these pictures. I remember how truly happy and afraid I was.

I laughed a little because in these photos I’m wearing the same clothes I wear today. I no longer own the shoes, but I do the jeans, my Gizmo top, the jacket. I’m turning 41 in a week. Those clothes have followed me everywhere.

Am I truly happy? I think there’s a pressure to say yes. That’s the culture we exist in now. Just say yes. To say no is admitting defeat, demonstrating vulnerability. And you wouldn’t want to do that. It’s best to pretend.

When I see 32 year old me I think, my, what a life I have lived, and what a wonder the next 9 years will bring. But I must remind myself that it’s not possession that brings solitude and contentment. It’s doing the hard work and figuring out who I am. I knew who I was more when I was 32 than I do now at 41. There have been challenges that have tested my resolve and my strength. But here, in these images, at 32, I was truly happy. I didn’t know it at the time. I believed that I wasn’t worthy of joy, for reasons that would take too much time to divulge. But I was, still am to a large extent, a sacrificer, a compromiser.

I have a memory. I remember being alone in Buenos Aires, attempting to find connection. I’d wake each morning and walk to work in Vicente Lopez. I was alone, but not lonely. I’m different than most people. I am like anchovies, not everyone wants those furry little things. I’m weird, I can admit it. I enjoy spending time alone.

I wrote a man whose blog I had found. He had kept an online journal of his South American adventures from 2006 and his posts brought me comfort. I emailed him and asked where I could find a good barber, he replied and offered a few suggestions. He had recently returned to San Francisco, having spent 6 years in Argentina. I admit, I became melancholy at that discovery. Life barrels onward. It’s a small, fleeting memory, but I remember it fondly because in that all too brief correspondence I had hope, and within seconds, it had diminished.

I will keep going to the light. Keep going toward the end of my life. I have no choice. In the meantime, before I get there, I must remember that it isn’t owning, it isn’t possessing, it isn’t thoughtless, mindless following that makes a person. You are not unique because of your tattoos, or your piercings, or the colour of your hair. You are unique because of how you think, and what you say, and how you treat those who are less fortunate. It always seems so schmaltzy a thing to say.

It is true.

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