Happiness and the Nature of Winging It

Happiness is the easiest thing in the world, and also the hardest. It’s sunshine on your face. It’s battling brain chemistry. It’s as complicated as being in the right place at the right time to see the right person, and as easy as making yourself get in the shower after an anxiety attack.

This weekend, I celebrated happiness in the most tangible sense of the word. I decided on a whim to tag along with two friends to St. Louis Pride, which has been one of the best spur-of-the-moment decisions I’ve made in a long time. We gathered beads and beer, danced with friends and strangers, cheered on drag queens and yelled “Love Wins” at the top of our lungs. People were so happy. This ruling is a triumph in every sense of the word, but it’s a first step. A monumental one, but a first step nonetheless. There is so much more fighting to be done for LGBTQ+ rights: You can get fired for being not straight, and you can be even be evicted from your apartment. But there we all were, filling St. Louis with color and kissing and battle cries and selfies and hope and stickers and tears and smiling, celebrating a happy, happy victory.

Spontaneity has been on my mind a lot recently. It’s something I haven’t been able to indulge in for quite a while. I had to work. I procrastinated too much and needed to stay up super late to finish a project. I was broke. Usually, summer is my adventure time. After freshman year, I explored Austin with my sister. After sophomore, I ran away to Alaska to work as a camp counselor. Last summer, I hopped the pond to spend a summer in Belgium. This year, I’m off to a slower start. It’s been mostly work, Netflix and going to my favorite bars with friends.

But things are about to pick back up. When your life path is largely “I don’t know,” things are equal parts scary and exhilarating In two weeks, I’m moving out of my apartment and out of Columbia. For good. Which, initially, is terrifying and very, very sad and anxiety inducing in the extreme. It’s also exciting and thrilling and cause for celebration. I get to move on to a new adventure in Austin (which will hopefully soon include full-time employment if y’all could cross your fingers for me). I get to change and grow and go do new things. Meet new people. Find new coffee shops. Find new favorite bartenders. But to do that, I have to be willing to put myself out there.

This is my public declaration and internal plea to let myself take more chances. I’m a people pleaser and also a nervous sort of person. I worry about what people think of me. I don’t like to leave the house without triple-checking my hair or doing my eyebrows. I am also a person who loves adventures and eating at late night diners and exploring where there isn’t cell service. I want the next chapter of my life to focus on soothing this cognitive dissonance.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s way better than it has been. I feel more like myself than I have in ages. My good body image days far outweigh my bad ones. I’m not really afraid of shorts. I’m not afraid to dance in the grocery store. My hair is half blue-teal-teal-whatever.  I am realizing parts of my identity that are exciting and freeing and wonderful. I have a couple ridiculous crushes that make my life so wacky. Things have been really good recently.

Maybe it’s the fact that I won’t have to endure another finals week for more than five years (assuming I ever go to grad school). Maybe it’s the fact that my research project is done and submitted and out of my hair. Maybe it’s the fact that I feel validated in my physical presence. Maybe it’s the fact that people are proud of me. I’m not sure, but I feel more less like a pile of sludge and more like a sunbeam every day.

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