There is no time of the year when I am not a sappy, nostalgic, sentimental person. I have a shoebox under my bed with a collection of movie stubs dating back ten years. I have an entire folder on my hard drive containing screenshots of text messages I didn’t want to forget from past loves. I’ve kept every single one of my yearbooks since kindergarten. It’s not that I have a hard time letting go of the past, but more about the fact that I am fascinated by what it means to be human and to remember. It’s about how songs, smells, images, words can transport you back in time and make you feel what you felt years ago. This collection of my own memories that adapt over time as I adapt: this is what makes me feel human, makes me feel alive — makes me feel like, in the never-ending, always-moving, ever-changing, and sometimes-depressing spiral that is life, that everything happens for a reason. Clichés, it seems, are named as such because in them lies truth. I know that not everyone believes everything happens for a reason, but it’s the maxim that keeps me sane as I move forward. If I couldn’t find meaning in the things that happen to me, I think I would live my entire life in some debilitating existential crisis until I just couldn’t bear it anymore. Sometimes these parts of being human are unavoidable; the questions regarding if anything even matters, of the futility of existence, if trying to create something meaningful from your short and small portion of the universe is worth it.
David Foster Wallace writes in his opus Infinite Jest, “What passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human […] is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic.” To be human is to be a faulty machine. To be human is to be, a lot of the time, not in control of what ultimately happens to you. It’s scary. It makes the option of not giving a shit seem a little safer, a little more manageable. Going after anything — what you want, what you know is good for you, what you love, what you need — becomes a terrifying act requiring bravery of the utmost proportions.
My mantra for 2015 has been, “Are you scared to get happy?” It wasn’t even until halfway through the year that I was able to properly articulate what I believe this means in so many words. And then it came to me, one hot, summer night while I was sitting at my desk drinking whiskey (to be fair, I had just finished watching every episode of Mad Men, so I had Don Draper on the mind). Am I scared to get happy? Are you scared to get happy? Are we all scared to get happy? It became my bio on everything, from Facebook to Tinder. It became my gauge to know if someone was on the same wavelength as me, or at least curious enough to enquire what I meant.
So now, as 2015 comes to a close, I want to share with all of you what this question really means to me and why I will continue living my life with it in the back of my mind. Are you scared to get happy? might seem like a pointless, even silly question to some. Even my friend Casey pondered its seemingly ridiculous nature: “Happiness is one of those things that — at least in theory — everybody should probably want.” Yes, in theory, this is true. But a lot of us spend a large portion of our lives worrying or being afraid or telling ourselves we still have so much time. And this is what I set out from 2014 wanting to make my new year like. I wanted to stop letting my fear control me. I wanted to work harder so I could finally just go out and travel. I wanted to take chances in love. I wanted to tell the truth. I wanted to look the people who hurt me in the eye and say exactly what I’d said to myself for so long about why I was so sad and angry. I wanted to step out the door every day and then lie down in bed each night not ever thinking I’d wasted a single second of my short, brief life. I wanted to look myself in the mirror and like what I saw. I wanted to eat good food and drink good wine and read good books and take long, long baths. I wanted to inspire someone, but, most of all, I wanted to inspire myself.
I’d spent a long time before this year being really sad and really hateful toward myself. I had always — for as long as I can remember, at least — compared myself to everyone else’s character and personal life progress. I also had a tendency to seriously doubt anyone around me enjoyed actually being around me, and I think a lot of this had to do with not truly liking being around myself. So when 2014 ended, I was still dealing with the repercussions of a strange, sad breakup with a long term boyfriend, struggling to figure out what I wanted in my future, and truly unable to look in that mirror and think positively.
But the new beginning that a new year offers is incredibly enchanting, so I grabbed it with all my strength and pulled all that hope and newness toward me and vowed to make it a year of development: developing self love, developing friendships, developing a new outlook that embraced being scared out of my mind.
And that’s the thing. My fear isn’t gone, but I’ve learned to live with it. Because the answer to my question isn’t no. It’s a big, loud yes. It’s terrifying to be human and to fully and completely go after what you think will make you the happiest. But part of being human is letting go and jumping when it’s the absolute scariest.
Here’s to one of my best years on this tiny, little planet, and here’s to the next 365 days of all of our lives. Let’s be scared and make it an amazing one.