Tell me about the last time you were happy.
Actually, truly happy.
Do you remember? Or are you attempting to fill in the blanks?
(Happy moment, insert here.)
I can’t recall most of my happiest moments. My brain, in an effort to block out trauma, blocked out a lot of good memories as well. It’s frustrating, to say the least. Not being able to remember your happiest times? It makes you feel as though, maybe, you never had good memories to begin with. This is why I’ve made it my mission to preserve as many new happy moments as I possibly can.
How do I do this?
Let me explain.
Over the past three months, my writer’s block has been absolutely debilitating. It wasn’t always like this, obviously. Writing used to be the thing-- the thing-- that made me happy. For a while there, I was capable of hammering out word after word after word, bringing about a certain sense of pride. My work was important, I thought. I was talented.
Now, I’m not so sure.
Thankfully, deflation always seems to fuel a fire in my belly.
I thought to myself, no. No! I couldn’t possibly be discouraged by having writer’s block. It happens to the best of us. What needed to happen now, though, was that I needed to find a new source of happiness-- a new passion.
So I decided to ask.
I write to you the words-- verbatim-- everyone shared with me.
I wanted to make sure I wasn’t censoring anyone’s answer, no matter how detailed.
It started with my boyfriend, and the question, “When was the last time you felt happy?”
He answered, “I was happy driving to work this morning.” When I asked him why, he said, “I was happy because I was grateful to have the job.”
I thought this was admirable-- he’s humble to a fault, and to know a mere car ride made him happy was a refreshing start to my investigation.
I wrote it down in my journal.
To have, to ruminate on, to study in search of my own happiness.
Drunk on the idea of counseling others, I decided to ask a group of close friends on our Instagram group chat. The first one to answer my plea said, “Everytime I see my partner for the first time in a day-- sometimes it’s my first real smile of a day. It’s like a little happiness jolt. Seeing y'all is like that too, but my partner would be the common example. If you mean like, the last time I felt the consistent overarching feeling of happiness, it might be longer than holding hands or cuddling, I would have to guess. Probably the last time I was at Alton Towers? Three years ago?”
The next was quick to follow. They typed out, “Minute/jolt: Parts of the Bo Burnham special, also holding my dog like a baby. Day: My birthday-- specifically having a picnic at Bethesda with my friend. There was something so beautiful and peaceful about it. Week: The week I visited you in Scotland a couple years back. That was one of the happiest weeks of my life.”
It took a bit of coaxing to get an answer out of my other friends, but finally, one answered, “Ummm, happiness. Momentary: when Apple Music decided to finally do its job and randomly plays the perfect song for my mood, and it happens to be a good day where there are lots of puffy white clouds and I can roll my windows down in the car and be nothing but fresh air and thrumming beats for a moment in time. Sitting at Les Mis auditions and finally feeling like I’m doing something correct, like I’m doing something I’m good at, and that I’m helpful. Clean hair and falling into bed where the sheets and pillows are cool and my body is warm. Day: going to the aquarium with my partner and enjoying all the fish. Canyon driving late at night with the music blaring and my friends in the back seat. Whenever we hang out together, honestly.”
I can’t say I’m surprised with the purity all of these answers held. My friends know how to elicit an emotional response. It was a perfect addition to my journal-- I could notice my penmanship getting sloppier and sloppier as I giddily continued to write.
After that, I sought out my sisters for an answer.
My little sister thought about it for a second, and said, “The last time I was happy? Last time I was just momentarily very happy was probably the other day, when I was over at my friend’s house for a barbeque. And then, the last time I was just happy in general for like, a very very long time, was-- god, this is so sad, but probably when I was like, in sixth grade-- like eleven. Like, a lot of bad things have happened, but yeah, sixth grade.”
I called my older sister and asked my question. The reply I got was, “The last time I was happy? Like, describe a situation in which I was happy? Um, I don’t know, I’m pretty happy now, I would say. It depends on what you mean by happy. I feel like it’s not specific. Okay, I would say-- actually, I can tell you exactly. I have a general baseline of contentedness, but then I looked down at my cat, doing this--” --she put me on FaceTime and showed me her cat laying on its back, swatting at the air. “He’s a fat little lard. And that made me happy.”
My sister’s fiance walked into the room while I was on the phone, and I asked him the same question. He said, “When was the last time I was happy? Thirty seconds ago. Why? Because I walked into the room and my nearly-wife was there.”
And that’s what I loved about his answer. His happiness spread happiness to both my sister and myself. It wasn’t just experienced by one-- it was enjoyed by all.
I didn’t know what I planned to do with these responses. Not at first.
But then I realized-- I’d have to follow up. I’d have to see if their way of experiencing happiness changed at all, or if they had more to add.
It made me momentarily excited, until I realized I still hadn’t come up with my happy moment. I have to admit, I sat with it for a very, very long time. Right up until I realized something.
I was consistently smiling when receiving replies from my peers.
I had this warmth in my chest.
This sense of importance.
And if I had my way, I’d initiate every conversation with the words, “When was the last time you were happy?”
Because the world is full of hungry, busy people, who don’t ruminate on their happiest moments. We quickly forget our child-like sense of wonderment. In fact, take children as an example. They are able to experience pure joy because they live in the moment. They’re not preoccupied with the past or the future-- they’re living in the here and now.
I am passionate about reminding others what it’s like to be happy.
I want to give to others and impact the world in an emotional way. I want to provide others with a sense of enlightenment-- of awe. Not of me, but of the question I have put into the universe.
When was the last time you were happy?
Don’t tell me.