I’d say I’m a pretty happy person- which is bloody marvelous, since I wouldn’t always have described myself as such.
My parents recently dug out my childhood Sindy Filofax (I know, right?), and there was a page where you could write what triggered certain emotions for you e.g ‘What makes me feel sad’. Under ‘What makes me feel happy’, I had put nothing. I’d left it completely blank!
To go from being a little person who couldn’t work out what made her happy to a big person who feels like she has a pretty good idea feels like quite the accomplishment!
So what does make me feel happy?
Sunshine. Snow. Vegan junk food. Cuddling. Solving a tricky problem. Traveling. Reading a great book. Trashy TV. And feeling like I’m doing my small part to make the world a better place for everyone.
That last one. Feeling like I’m doing my small part to make the world a better place for everyone. That’s a tricky one. For me, ‘making the world a better place’ means striving to combat systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. It means striving for a world where the income of a baby’s parents does not have an impact on that baby’s life expectancy. For a world where animals are free from suffering at the hands of humans. And for a world that still exists in the decades to come, because we’ve managed to work out how to live on it sustainably.
This sense of purpose gives me happiness.
It makes me feel alive. But there’s a strange tension in that, because, to continue to strive towards that purpose, I have to stare at all the things that make me unhappy. I have to be saddened by the lack of change, by the fear, the violence. I have to be angry for the voices that aren’t being heard. And I have to frequently look inside myself and I ask ‘Am I doing enough?’
And the answer, of course, is always ‘No’. We could all do more. Always. I try to live my life with clear values in mind, and make decisions about my employment, my purchases, my voting and my behaviour that align with those values. But I fail often. My contribution is incredibly inadequate. I figure that that’s okay, as long as I keep trying.
I am happy, and that happiness is a privilege.
I’m not suggesting that we should cast aside all personal happiness in favour of the greater good. I think happy people are much better placed to enact change. They have energy. They bring people along for the ride. But I’m saying that my happiness isn’t worth very much if it doesn’t leave space for me to look beyond my own experience.
So I’ll stay happy, but angry. Happy, but sad. Happy, but fired up. And, maybe our tiny, powerful voices will make enough noise to make a change.
Now, that would make me really, really happy.
To hear more from Penelope, check out her blog here and her social media profiles!