Happiness is not bruising your foot very badly. Happiness is not emotionally troubling family situations or the death of your friends, and neither is it facing intimidating consulate employees. Happiness is not depression or mood swings or constant chatter in your brain, fluttering around like a million pinging butterflies.
I spent four summer months in New Jersey before I returned to Paris. I spent four summer months on anti-depressants, living in an perpetual bewildered state. I struggled and am still struggling to cope with the recent changes in my life, my friend’s lives, and my family’s life. We are always asking about what happiness is, and where do we find it. I’m sick of this question and I’m sick of the answers. All I can focus on is what happiness is not.
Happiness is not living in a state of constant confusion and lacking a sense of self. Here we are, the resident humans of planet Earth, with all our hesitations, our fears, our jokes, our cultures, our politics, and our beliefs. But I’m still not convinced any of it has to do with anything.
I’ve been looking between cobblestones and behind impressive old doors for happiness. I haven’t found it in cafés or at bars or in apartments. These places give me shelter and they give me ambiance and they make me feel like a person who exists in a specific time and place. My address in France, in the Western hemisphere, on Planet Earth, in the Milky Way Galaxy, in the Universe. I’ve always known that traveling and playing hide-and-seek with happiness would never work. Doesn’t mean I haven’t stopped trying.
I’ve begun to grow roots in France in a way I didn’t think was possible. These attachments have started trickling out of my feet and into the soil of a country that I formally met almost two years ago. I’m not French and I will never be French. But my particiaption in life here, in the city and at the university, has put me strangely half-in, half-out. Like I am playing hokey-pokey with French culture. I’ve got my right arm in, left arm out.
Happiness is not lacking identity. During class on Tuesday morning I watched a film by Wim Wenders, “Notebook on Cities and Clothes.” The introduction that scrolled past on the screen punched at my ribs and squished its fingers into my brain.
I’ll post an excerpt from the film and then I will post a photo, and we will leave this silly conversation on never being happy to die peacefully while we move on.
The word itself gives me shivers.
It rings of calm, comfort, contentedness.
What is it, identity?
To know where you belong?
To know your self worth?
To know who you are?
How do you recognise identity?
We are creating an image of ourselves,
We are attempting to resemble this image…
Is that what we call identity?
The accord between the image we have created of ourselves
Just who is that, ‘ourselves’?
We live in the cities.
The cities live in us…
We move from one city to another,
from on country to another.
We change languages,
we change habits,
we change opinions,
we change clothes,
we change everything.
Everything changes, and fast.”