I was sitting at a Starbucks -- just me, my computer and some tea. I glanced around to see an elderly woman with her (I'm assuming) granddaughter, two men dressed to the nines, a handful of baristas cleaning up to close for the night. Time passed, I read some stuff, wrote some stuff, just like every other night. The other customers left and soon enough I felt threatened enough by the employee stacking chairs onto tables that I, too, left.
The night was a cool one for LA. By now my body has grossly adjusted to the consistently pleasant climate of southern California, so naturally I was freezing. When I got into my car I suddenly realized it had been several hours since I last spoke, since words had left my mouth to order my tea from the cashier at Starbucks. It was a weird phenomenon that I really have never caught myself in before. Obviously I've gone periods of time without speaking but for some reason, this day, this moment, stuck with me and I had a weird sensation inside. Finally, I looked into my rear view mirror and said "hi."
Maybe this is the beginning of my slow descent into insanity, but it felt more so (hopefully) like a moment of recognition, as if to say, "I'm here, I exist, I'm real." My simple self-directed greeting unleashed a flood of emotions for a reason I cannot explain except that I have the unique ability to be consistently overly dramatic (I'm hoping this will prove to be a major strength at some point in my professional life). My vocal cords' inactivity got to me, made me feel like I didn't have a say, for lack of a better word, a voice.
It was only after a chat with a good listener of a friend that I was able to identify this bizarre emotion to myself. I was lonely. There, I said it. I was lonely, isolated, sad, any of those other words we all feel but have fears about admitting to. Once I said it, realized it, became okay with it, everything seemed better and I think it was because I realized what made me feel this way. In simple terms, it was the absence of speaking that bothered me so much. I needed people, interaction, not just observation. I needed a more external release of joy than just typing words on a page all day long. In a very roundabout way, this small epiphany of a moment helped me start to understand how important it was for me to have that outside happiness, those joyful moments spent with others.
But then I had a slew of conversations with my fellow 22-year-old lost compatriots who felt exactly the same way that I did. Momentarily, this made me feel better, that I wasn't alone in feeling alone. But there was something in common between all of us, a lack of balance. We are ambitious, we don't want to sacrifice opportunity for frivolous things like, you know, fun. However, contrary to a recent college graduate's beliefs, fun comes in all forms. We are all unique and for all of us, finding those fun things, those pleasurable moments that make the day not one of loneliness or monotony comes about differently. Whether it's playing your favorite song forty times or making an effort to have some good old fashion conversation, we can all find our moments of happiness that will alleviate that forsaken loneliness.
I thought about this more and more, about what plagues us into thinking that we can go through days without sometimes even an ounce of joy. More often than not it's ambition -- ambition to provide, ambition to succeed, ambition to impress. Ambition is amazing, I would be lost without it as would most of us who rely on some sort of self-motivation. So I thought about my own ambition, and how that was maybe getting in the way of these moments of joy I found myself now craving. Then as quickly as I had realized my flaw, my need, my missing link after that night at Starbucks, I realized at this moment of reflection on my apparently prohibiting ambition that I had nothing to worry about. The specific happy things will come, they'll make their way into our lives through all sorts of paths we could have never conjured up, so there's no point in manipulating them. But I think that there's only room for those joyful moments, those happy things that keep us balanced and sane and healthy, when the regular grind of life is something worthwhile and rewarding.
Rewarding means different things to everyone and I am in absolutely no place to define it for anyone but myself. Although I think that there needs to be that light at the end of the tunnel, that goal we have, even if it's so far-fetched we will probably never reach it. Ambition is good, it's what makes us who we are, it's what defines our choices. I want to believe at least that the happy moments will find their way into that path of ambition when that path has some semblance of pleasure and worth on its own. I feel lucky that I get to wake up every day and do what I love to do, even if it means being lonely sometimes.
I don't think anyone can ever claim perfect happiness. If we can find those bits of joy in our daily life, and they don't have be grand gestures or inconvenient efforts to be totally content, I'd hope that we can all get one step closer to whatever that imaginary light down that tunnel is. It may take a brief moment of talking to ourselves in the rear view mirror, or finally being able to admit that we aren't perfectly blissful all of the time when we should be, but that's okay. Maybe all that it takes to mine that joy out of the daily grind is recognition that we are doing what we are meant to do, what we have to do in order to keep the beautiful things in each and every one of our lives going.
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