It should come as no surprise—to anyone who knows me, anyway—that “happy” isn’t really my brand. If pressed to describe my typical emotional state, friends and family would instead choose words like disgruntled, annoyed, or misanthropic. Yet I recently recalled a moment when I actually was happy, well before adulthood, employment, and a mortgage made me disgruntled, annoyed, and misanthropic.
I remember the year was 1974.
Standing in my parent’s basement, just outside my father’s workshop, I vividly recall telling myself, “Always remember that 1974 was a great year” (I apparently had trouble retaining long-term memories even as a child). Regrettably, I have absolutely no recollection of what event(s) prompted that inexplicable mental note. I only remember vaguely being what I imagined other people called, “happy”—though it could’ve just been gas.
It’s easier to be happy when you’re dumb.
Now, I’m left wondering what would’ve constituted “a great year” to my younger self. What could’ve made me so gleeful that I retained the thought for decades? What was so amazing that my scumbag brain pushed aside more important memories like the smell of our brand new car, the road trip my family took out to the country, and the surname we had before going into Witness Protection?
Who even remembers the 1970s?
Surprisingly, a lot happened in 1974; it was the year Richard Nixon lowered the speed limit to 55 before resigning over Watergate, the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped Patty Hearst, ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest, and Nelson Rockefeller was sworn in as Gerald Ford’s Vice President. (Wait, what…?) Still, none of that would’ve meant squat to a kid who was busy building Estes Rockets and launching very surprised chipmunks into the troposphere.*
How to get happy.
Regardless of what caused that brush with bliss, I’ve since learned three important lessons about happiness:
- First, it isn’t a state you can sustain, it’s a moment that’s fleeting like a Spring rain shower or your hairline.
- Second, chasing happiness is a fool’s errand that always ends with jail time for possession of Schedule 1 narcotics.
- And third, the only way to achieve happiness is by doing important, meaningful work, or by writing an email newsletter.
Then, when happiness shows up, you simply tackle it, hogtie it, and chain it up in your basement.
That way, every year will be a great year.
*No actual chipmunks were sent into space (they didn’t fit in the tiny pressure suits).