On July 4th, 2016, I decided to completely 180 the way I posted Happiness is quips. I posted the following status:
Happiness is.. not making things about yourself. I recently realized that for the past 1,699 days, I’ve made Happiness is posts that only relate to me, my life, what I’m going through or dealing with on that day. So for the next however many days I feel like it (I don’t have a plan), I’m going to try to write Happiness is posts from the perspective of important people in my life. I’m not going to tell you it’s about you. But it’s going to be a fun project in human understanding and trying to recognize what makes those closest to me happy. Cheers to many more days of joy for all of us. Thanks guys.
And so on July 5th, 2016, I posted my first status #ThroughTheEyes of someone else. I made a point though... rather than say through the eyes of [insert name here] I posted that the “Happiness is” “Through The Eyes” of the person who taught me understanding.
And so on and so on. In July, it was a relatively easy task. I has a solid line up of people to think through and a solid number of monikers to throw at the end “who taught me loyalty, chivalry, kindness, friendship, and so on.”
Then August came and I was starting to feel different about this twist to the normal routine. The project was a fun experiment in human understanding, sure, but also a fascinating glance into my own psyche. Here’s what I learned:
1. I realized we have way more in common than we sometimes think. I could pick a girl friend I’d had since elementary school or a boy friend I met in college and realize that the same things made them happy. More than that, I would realize that what I thought made them happy was something that made me happy in my past 1,699 days. It was exhausting to keep track of.
2. I also realized how diverse we are. Through The Eyes was a perfect opportunity to throw out Happiness is statements that would have never applied to me. For example, “Happiness is golf.” I hate golf. I think it’s tedious and dry and unless it’s miniature, I don’t really get it. But for many of my friends, that is happiness. That is joy. And it was great to be able to highlight things that I would naturally never think of as happiness.
3. It was impossible to rename people. It started easy. The person who taught me this or showed me that or did this for me. After a while, however, I started to get stuck – not because these incredible people I was secretly highlighting hadn’t done anything for me, but because they had done so much. I didn’t know how to properly explain. I was writing Through The Eyes of someone who taught me grace…but in reality, they also taught me patience and kindness and friendship and general life enthusiasm. It was hard to pack their impact into one compartmentalized renaming device.
4. And going off that, have you ever tried to boil those complex creatures you call your loved ones into one thing. To know them inside and out, to have seen them at their best and at their worst, to know what makes them sing and what makes them sob and give them one sentence. How do you do justice to someone who lusts for sunshine bleached skin, someone who falls to sadness in snow, someone who packs in all the living, breathing color of the universe into one dynamic force of nature? How do you define someone by one sentence?
But the thing I perhaps learned the most from this August Smile Project?
5. Who am I to pretend to know the ins and outs of even my closest friends? I distinctly remember talking to a good friend back in middle school. I was upset about something and, in my opinion, being moody and annoying. I apologized for being a burden and wasting their time and stuffed myself further into the sofa to mope. Naturally, they rebuked with the idea that I wasn’t annoying or wasting their time, or whatever other self-deprecating voice I had gotten into my head.
But I had already made up my mind. I was tiresome and being a selfish friend. Then he said this:
Liz, I’m your friend. Therefore, this isn’t a waste of my time. You’re not a burden. You’re not annoying. You’re not any of whatever you’re thinking you are right now. And you don’t get to rebuke that. You don’t get to tell me how I feel about you. If I tell you that I enjoy being with you and talking to you, who are you to tell me any differently? You don’t get to decide how I feel.
And eight years later that’s still true.
Who was I to decide what made other people happy?
I liked my little experiment. It was fun and I thought August would be all about trying to understand the minds of others. And then as these things tend to go, I instead found out about myself.
I had almost intended to run this campaign for 100 day. Then I decided I would stop at 50. Then I thought I’d wait until the end of August. Then I remembered that you don’t have to wait for an expected date to end something. You don’t have to wait until New Year’s to make a resolution. Hell, “Happiness is” started on a Wednesday in the beginning of November. You don’t always need rhyme or reason. You mostly just need heart, I suppose.
And so this is my heart saying, Happiness is will be returning tomorrow in the way you’ve always known it – through my voice, with all my quirks, in all their glory.