What makes someone genuinely happy?
It’s the simplest questions that are the most difficult to respond to. After the numerous life crises and scholarship essays I’ve had to write over the course of this year, I’ve needed an answer.
Happiness is illustrated among a series of ways. It could be something that we have the tenancy to glamorize. A Free People shirt that is on sale has finally reached your hands. Your bank account has finally hit a number that pieces together what’s left of your sanity. You have your Audi parked in your driveway. You have one the biggest houses on the block. It’s the American dream. You have finally gotten all of the things that make you “happy”. Some actually see happiness as this, but I never could understand as to why that is. Maybe in the moment it feels good, but all of those things go away. It’s temporary. They rust. They tear. It gets spent. You lose it all.
People watching is one of the greatest luxuries. I can’t help but to wonder what others have been through. I wonder what they think about. I wonder what type of person that are. I wonder what makes them happy.
Was it because you passed that man that is always singing around campus? He doesn’t have a care in the world. It’s actually admirable. You question if he is an actual student, but you look up to his dedication. He does it everyday, even in the rain. Was it because the cute boy on your floor is drawing outside of your dorm room? You wonder what he is drawing, but your too afraid to actually ask. Was it because you met a blind man that was one of the happiest human beings you have ever met? You kick yourself because minutes before you were complaining about how unlucky your life was, but then that one man made you think differently. You have your sight. You can walk just fine. You can breathe. Stop your whining. There is always someone that has it worse.
having joy rides with your best friends. You blast Stacy’s mom even though you have no fucking idea who Stacy is. It’s eating peppermint ice cream around the holidays; it reminds you of your grandmother and how excited she got when she saw it in the market. It’s hearing a friend laugh at the pun you just made even though it was an awful one. It’s passing the Hartford University School playground on the way to your Communication class. You don’t want to go. You see children having fun with games you forgot existed. The toys they play with aren’t materials. It isn’t their iPhone. It wasn’t that “lit” party from last weekend— I hope to god it wasn’t. They use their imagination— a gift that we forget to utilize at our age. You continue to walk to your class. Your no longer dragging your feet, your looking ahead jamming out to your favorite Lumineers song. You drew a setting of where you dream you could be up ahead. Instead of turning back to the comfort of your dorm, you start running. Your excited for what is to come of this day. Our mentality is our reality.
Their spaghetti sauce smiles got you through the agony you create for yourself. Your best friend makes your head hurt, because you can’t stop laughing when your with her. The thought of your grandma makes you cry, because you can’t stop thinking of all the great times. Their the good tears. Sometimes in the heat of it all we forget that. We forget that it is the simple things that matter. I hate that I sound like a Hallmark card, but I know no other way to stress this importance.
What makes you happy?
What makes you smile?
The four letter word we all want to hear. The feeling we all want to feel. We see red. We see roses. There are those stupid fluffy bears out and about. Their brown eyes stare at you— they know that you are still single. They have a snapchat streak of 300… They have been dating since high school. Another Channing Tatum movie that reminds us of our dating history is out once more. We still haven’t had a boyfriend. We still have yet to have a New Year’s Eve kiss. Isn’t life just so great.
We still ask ourselves why our Facebook status still says single, and we definitely have our predictions as to why that is. Our body is too big. Our teeth aren’t straight enough; I swear we have a snaggletooth. We don’t drink enough water. Our skin as dry as the Sahara Desert. We are too nice. We look like a skittle.
Why is that? Why do we still feel like we aren’t enough? My heart hurts. My brain won’t turn off long enough for me to grasp positive thoughts. Life is good. Life is good. Life is good. Our soulmate is out there. He likes books. He listens to John Mayer. He can’t live without coffee. He loves Red Hot Chili Peppers, and he despises Metallica. He lives in some city like Seattle, Washington. Whoever “he” might be likes us just the way we are.
We have so much love to give, and we feel like we have no one to give it to. You have all of this energy to use, and you don’t know where to put it. You feel like you have the worst luck with guys. Everyone you have been interested in— the ones that made you feel like you wanted to jump up and down with excitement went with another pick. You wanted that one to recognize you. You wanted that one to be the one— the one that would gravitate towards you in a sea of girls that you dream you could be like. Just you.
You didn’t want to believe what others told you. Boys aren’t like the ones in movies. Chivalry is dead. True love doesn’t exist. Boys just cheat.
Maybe I am just oblivious to reality. Maybe I am too much of a hopeless romantic. Maybe I am too philosophical. But, all I really know is that we need to listen to what the universe is revealing. Signs present themselves, but we are too stuck in our ways to see what dots we are suppose to be aligning. Listen to your intuition. Be with who you want to be. Be single. Ask a guy out to coffee. Tell a girl that she is beautiful. This love is different— in this decade, in this society, in this generation.
But, we have to come to terms with that. People are changing. The world is evolving. If you want love to be like the kind of love you see in movies— make it happen. We are too busy criticizing our bodies to see the truth. We spend too much time making excuses for the life that we live. It is what it is. No, it isn’t. Boys are just like that. No, their not.
There is this thing called destiny. Couldn’t tell you what yours will entail. But, it will be beautiful.
Home sweet home. That’s what they say, right? Typically, a home is a paradise. Your paradise. Your own little island. There aren’t any palm trees or coconuts tumbling towards your feet, but it’s a island of what you make it to be. When life gets difficult you run home and life is at a stand still. Time is paused. There aren’t any clocks. You can finally keep up with the pace of the traffic and the movement of your feet. You can breathe suddenly. Your no longer a brick on a college campus. For these few weeks your not a sucker to the education system. Your you— whoever that may be.
This home reminds you of old times. These were the streets you once walked on with old friends. Friends that you still talk to. Friends that have stayed all these years. Now those people you called your friends walk past knowing the things they know—your secrets, insecurities, dreams, but now your just another a entity. Ebbing through the crowd, trying to stay afloat. Some of these graduates have lost them self to drugs. Some think it’s still cool to be failing their classes— blowing thousands of dollars their parents bled for. Some have been miserable, and you’ve lived your own life never knowing all the tears they shed while you were laughing with a set of new ones.
Your home could be a traditional home— two parents, a dog that isn’t afraid to let his hair run wild on the carpeted floors, your artwork from the fourth grade is still plastered on the refrigerator, and your bed is still made. It’s calling for your body. It could be a cold room of unopened envelopes and used paper plates. Your father is busy working. He is simply surviving, trying to at least— in this economy or better yet this society. Your embraced by your grandmother, sister, brothers, nephews, and family friends. All the hugs and memories they bring. The pressure of each squeeze. The warmth of each heart. It is different. All are different.
These are bits and pieces of a home— none of these qualities come from just one. We wish they did. Each idea is represented within a different door, different living situation, different last name. You can tell which ones have counted the days down until your arrival. You can tell which ones have called since you’ve been away. You can tell if they’ve spent a second of their day remembering a memory you both have shared. Do they remember the sound of your laugh? Do they remember how cold you get at night? Each subdivision, city, state, country, galaxy there is a person out there thinking the same thing. Do they even care?
The trees may be glowing of light. There may be presents under the tree. There is hot chocolate. There is a crackling fire by your toes. There are many dinners to be made. But, there is still a life to be lived.
Striving to be someone here is questionable. It’s painful to consider the process of being someone. Here. Everywhere. At least it seems that way. Proactive actors recite lines upon lines near my wiggling ears. Film students from University of Southern California walk these streets. I am stepping in their footprints. I am them. They are me. Journalists live in the hidden coffee bungalows. Ideas are here. Ambition floods this place. The aspect of what if is tousling with the stream of my thoughts.
Before booking my flight, I scheduled a college visit to University of Southern California, University of California Los Angeles, University of California San Diego, Santa Monica College, and San Diego City College. Within three days into my trip I canceled majority of the visits. I visited University of California San Diego, and I thought that was it. San Diego was the area for me. At least that’s what I thought.
I’ve never been able to stay in one spot. One city. One state. The idea that I was considering several places all at once is a bundle of purified suffocation. California was supposed to bring me clarity, but it did the opposite. I wanted to breathe in the world around me and exhale to find the world I wanted to see. My reality was cookie cutter. California was the store bought dough. I wanted the homemade.
The coffee. The creamy light shots of espresso mouths words to my jumbled mind. I’m sitting at a coffee shop. Working on an assignment that is due for the life I live at home. While trying to focus I stare at the bystanders socializing. Two woman in scrubs chat. Their words sound like a record that skips. It’s sounds interesting from a distance, but when you get close up its gibberish. The conversation doesn’t flow. It’s meaningless. To me and to anyone else that could overhear. A dramatized talk that circles around one party at the table. But, then again it’s not my conversation.
I think everyone seems to think California is great. We assume that the people are snooty. They are. Their self-absorbed maniacs— that don’t know how to drive. But, there are a few great people that I see from a distance. I never approach, but I admire. Everyone is in their own little world. You can hardly have an interaction with anyone here. Everything is exclusive. Everyone is secluded. You submerge yourself into your own thoughts, because you can’t help it. No one communicates. No one stops to interact. Everyone is doing the same thing. Thinking. Working to climb their way to the top— to a published article, to a funded movie, to a lead role in a popularized musical. Lives are glorified here. They aren’t all great. They’re all diamonds without the sparkle.
Everyone wants to live here. But, if you asked them why, they would hesitate. This state is great in the movies. It’s great on paper. But, we build up this place to be something that it’s not. Perfect to every eye.
I’m waiting. Waiting for these answers that have been waiting for me in this sunshine. The warm sun pissed me off. This soy caramel latte made me angry. Why? It’s not my place. This isn’t my place. Everyone and everything is too perfect. The water is too blue. The coffee is too good. I want some rain. I want some wind. This place is too perfect.
I don’t want perfect. I want what I’ve imagined since I was a child. An urbanized city that isn’t afraid to shout what they love and scream of excitement at the sight of a raindrop. There would be all walks of life. Weird. Gay. Stubby. Everyone would be accepting, and they’re intrigued. They want to know more about you. They want to know why you think the way you think. They want to know where you from. They want to know what brings you to their city. They dig below the surface of what you present to their world.
California figured me out. It helped me find me. My answers weren’t hiding behind the sun. My answers weren’t in the water. My heart was somewhere else— it’s just waiting for me to find it.
California Dreaming. Am I right or am I right? What’s that place? That place you’ve dreamed to be. That place where you think you’re destined to be. East Coast? West Coast? Midwest? Anywhere southern? A new country? Somewhere in Europe? Australia? California was supposed to be that place. That place that I’ve been missing. That place that was keeping a little part of me that I’ve been missing. My missing puzzle piece to the constant confusion my mind sustains has to be floating in the first cup of tea I purchase in Cali. It should be that easy. Right? There is a shriveled gap in my heart, in my mind that screams questions. These questions cannot be vaguely responded to nor can be ignored. My life cannot smoothly continue without these answers. It’s like living your life without a heart. You never feel anything, yet your whole body hurts. Everything never seems good enough. Everything is almost intolerable. So I flee to the sunshine state. The most populated state. They all can’t be bad. The sun is always out and about. The waves ebb all throughout the day. The surfers “hang loose” and catch gnarly waves. Majority of America calls this place their home, so why can’t I?
Batches of big and small envelopes pack my mailbox like the closet of fur coats to Narnia. Red. Gold. Blue. A range of mascots flood my email. I can’t go anywhere without having a new campus shoved in my face.
“We don’t look at standardized testing!”
“We will give you a partial scholarship that won’t cover your tuition at the slightest!”
You remember that time when we all applied for colleges. Some of us somewhat knew where we wanted to be and what we wanted to do, but others didn’t have the slightest idea. The city. The region. The culture. Our major. Our career. Nothing. We knew nothing. I knew nothing. I didn’t know where I wanted to be nor who I wanted to be. The movies make it seem easy. You pick a college like New York University and you get in. Next thing you know your feature story is published in Life Magazine. Simple as that. Right?
My fingers overlap one another. I’m discombobulated. I was sandwiched in between a screaming child and raging psychologist that analyzed every one of my flinches and congested coughs the entire flight. My hands wrap around my tacky colored suitcase, and I’m ready to slam through those airport doors to breathe in the fresh, polluted air and exhale the toxins that have built over eighteen years. My jaw collapses; I’m in full view of the shaggy palm trees that are overlooking the California traffic. I stand here in awe, secretly debating whether I should chop off some of these trees and stuff them in my suitcase to spruce up my Chicago winters. But, then again that wouldn’t be the best idea… The traffic. The cars have no care. Bumper to bumper. Hinge to hinge. Beat up rustic Chevy’s to royal blue Mercedes. They all have a place to be— a place where they are needed.
The breeze resembles a sense of the truth. The wind scrambles up reality; it makes our life our life. The mountain top is scribbled along the horizon. The peak of the mountain has a hidden treasure at the top. I like to think at least. It reaches high up. Into the clouds. It’s equivalent to my mind. It’s always somewhere else even in a new city. Will there ever be a time when this mind is nestled in one cocoon? Maybe California can be the cocoon. It never leaves. This view. It’s beautiful, but it just sits there. In my face. Taunting me. Symbolizing the things that I want, but it’s looks too far beyond my reach. It’s tempting yet overwhelming to continue along the road. Looking out. Straight ahead. I’m interviewing people all over the world. For my weekly article. I’m working for Life Magazine. I’m living in a big city. Life is good.
University of California- San Diego. 34% acceptance rate. 32,096 students enrolled. The top 10th public school in America. No pressure. The first thing I did when I arrived in a new place— I visited a school. It just can never stop. The ambition. The flame of energy that stirs in within me. It never burns out. It continues to grow in spite of this drought. The California drought that is. The campus would satisfy the common student’s requirements. Great food. A blue sky all year round. A gym that overlooks the ocean. “Hot Boys” who penny board all throughout campus. And of course the beaming sunshine that glistens in every crevice. If you like that kind of thing. I appreciated it all. The flow of the water. The echo in the library. The menu of bubble teas and “basic” special latte drinks. The traditions the school has continued over centuries. Dropping pumpkins off the engineering building during October. Dropping watermelons over rooftops during the spring. The oak trees that reminded me of broccoli. The steep hills I could lay on top of: to do homework or to stare at the sky and think about what is pass the fluffy clouds. God? Rows upon rows of loved ones that I’ve missed. A world that has only things I love. A world that is my perfect world.
I didn’t know what it was. But, I didn’t like it here. It had everything I could possibly imagine, but it wasn’t what I envisioned for me. I didn’t get that feeling. That sense of relief. That moment when you can’t help but to cheese, because you feel like you’re at the spot your destined to be. A spot that will bring upon a new friendship— a person that needs to be in your life. They may teach you something— how to love, how to be a friend. It’s weird to think that a person may have that capability. But, it’s possible. A person to love, and I mean really love. This person would define the mushy gushy kind of love for the first time in your life. This person may be on your floor. A next-door neighbor. You may run into this individual on an elevator on your way to the class you’ve been dreading all day. Economics. They might make that one day better. They might make your whole year. Your whole life. Better.
A friendship. A relationship. It could snowball from a “small” decision— choosing a school in San Diego or Los Angeles or New York City or Seattle. It’s overwhelming. These choices. These options. All of these places.
I sound like some critic. At this point of my life, I’ve only been to the south and Midwest. It’s been very black and white. Texas was and had always been a melting pot. Diverse. Very cultured. The center of everything I had ever known. Carne Asada tacos. Tamales on Christmas. Spanish bingo on the weekends. The smell of moonshine under my friendly neighbor’s breath. I thought that’s all the world ever was. Texas was like a black coffee without milk. It’s just there. This place gives me the strength to keep searching for another form of a home. Is there another beverage I can enjoy?
California is not simple. There is no simplicity.
So many things have changed—the person sitting here, writing this, my vision of the life I aspire to attract, my status of a senior high school student to high school graduate, a set of friends that were people of bold history and odd senses of humor. Through all of these changes comes a new being I hope to become.
Ideally I am in Brooklyn, New York— a confined apartment with a view of the cultured city, right below a busy Thai restaurant. Rows of cacti are arranged along the brick wall; a fire escape sits behind my impaired amenities; the windows broadcast an assembly of struggling journalists and proactive actors. My shitty coffee maker sporadically drips nectar that fuels me through my days.
It’s all I’ve imagined. It’s all I’ve wanted. A simple yet hectic lifestyle. I want serenity, peace, and accentuated trees that fill an overcast of clouds in miles of my home— a place to sit and think in silence, and a space to simply whelp in sadness, anger, or purely joy. A space that I can call my own. A city that I’m happy to represent. It’s easy to envision, but it’s difficult to acheive.