“It is always the simple that produces the marvellous.”
– Amelia Barr
I am Scottish. I am idealistic. I am a tad overweight. I am in a relationship. I have a cat. I am a little sarcastic. And I am learning to find the joy in the every day. The last six years of my life have been spent in the pursuit of thrill. I have travelled the world, tried jobs in every sector you can think of, made and lost friends, and it’s all been in the name of hunting down happiness.
To my mind, happiness has always been a destination. A time or place somewhere in the future where I am in a constant state of contentment. My baseline is bliss. I have loved ones around me and I’m comfortable financially and my hair is thick and my stomach is flat and I have many, many dogs. This, of course, is bollocks. Happiness is not a terminus. It is not a level to be unlocked. There is peace and laughter and cheer to be found in every day. I came to this realisation later in life than I would have liked, but not too late to change. In living for a future that may never come I had let myself believe that what I had was not enough, that I must always be striving for more.
This fast paced, turbulent and ever changing society that we live in has us believing that we can only be valuable if we are achieving. To stop moving forward or upward for even a moment is to fail. Being truly content isn’t an option because there will always be something else to strive for, something more to desire that we convince ourselves will make us better, happier. This realisation hit me like a freight train in spring 2016. I was sitting by a fire with my second or third beer of the evening in my hand. I was wrapped in a horrible pink and orange winter coat, and layers of T-shirts and socks and leggings and my face was puce from the heat of the fire. The late-night sky was brilliant in a way that only a countryside sky can be. Sitting on a plastic chair in a good friend’s garden in the woods, surrounded by a small group of pure, honest, interesting people I felt a peace I never had before. There are many emotions that most people are familiar with and which I think we all must experience in our own way, but peace is, for me at least, a rare feeling. I realised then that in that moment I had all I needed to be happy and the way I thought about happiness changed, I hope, forever.
Over that spring and summer I learned how to let in modest pleasures. I learned how to recognise the marvellous in the simplest of moments. I found an appreciation for contentment and arrived at the conclusion that living a small life is nothing shameful. We are constantly faced with the pressure to aspire to greatness, but what if settling for less isn’t really settling at all? What if we all were to learn to bask in the light we pass by every day but take for granted? What if we all took a good look at ourselves and asked, “Do I want greatness, or do I want happiness?” because the two are not synonymous. It’s difficult to distinguish between our own genuine dreams and wants and those things that we think we should strive for. And if once you’ve had that look at yourself you know you truly want to be the fastest or the richest or the most popular, then you crack on. But I know now that I can be truly happy in a moment with a cold beer, a crackling fire and honest friends. That moment won’t last forever, but it will be followed by another, and then another. None of this means that I don’t have goals, but it does mean that I know I can find happiness on the journey, not just in the destination.
So now I’m here, still adventuring, still searching, still learning, and trying to remember as I go through the day, that it is always the simple that produces the marvellous.