The value of happiness

By Madeleine Somerville

I used to be in love with a man–a boy, really. I loved him for all three years of high school and all the summers in between. I was dramatically, faithfully, if-I-can’t-date-him-I’ll-die in love.

But I never did date him, funnily enough. Never got a chance to kiss him or even hold his hand.

We were close, but never close enough to actually make the leap. Timing was always off. One of us would be halfheartedly in a relationship going nowhere, if only to prove to the other that we were desirable.

He was what every high school girl would have wanted: a beautiful, brooding poet with huge blue eyes; the drummer in a real band that played real gigs.

I still know the boy–a man now. And after all this time, after all the years and words, secrets and heartaches, I still haven’t dated him or kissed him or even held his hand. But lo and behold, I haven’t died from a broken heart.

Almost six years later, I’m in love with a different man, who is ridiculously and unbelievably happy about almost everything.

With us, the timing was right. I did get to date him, I held his hand and even got to kiss him. Almost two years later we’re still here and he’s what I’ve always wanted. He does everything full tilt and with everything he has, which is always surprising to someone who tends to hold back large sums for "what ifs" and regrets it later. He is incredibly, faithfully and infuriatingly stubborn–smiling all the while–but he’s here.

Someone commented a few weeks ago that my column was the cheesiest thing they’d read since walking through the Hallmark card aisle. I’d like to be angry and indignant, but they’re absolutely right. Life is cheesy sometimes. And sometimes I just need to write about it.

It’s tough, because I know that if I sit down at this desk and bang out a hard hitting expose on something, or a witty commentary on some trendy current topic, it will meet with approval. It will fit within what’s supposed to be written about and it will be normal. And if I write well it will hopefully be a shining example of good journalism. But to me it’s just not what I care about.

I don’t want to interfere in others’ lives and how they live them. I’d like to be a sidenote to balance their thoughts or fill some spare time until class begins. That’s good enough for me, I have enough of my own life to occupy me in the meantime.

It’s cheesy, somehow, when you talk about love and being in love, about being happy and content. It seems less authentic than being upset or angry about something–happiness and contentment are viewed as transitory. You’re unrealistic to believe you’ll have a life filled with happiness, but you can easily fill a life with loss, anger, regret, and sorrow. It feels more comfortable for me to look back and tell you about the love that never was, or that could have been if only…

But when speaking about love that is it’s awkward, intimate and sounds undeniably cheesy.

In the same way, it’s less acceptable to write about what you don’t know or what you’re scared of. People read for information and confidence, to learn, to finish with something they didn’t have when they started. Somehow this process is "worth" less if they learned humility, rather than how to lose weight in six easy steps, or about a life they regard as typical of a white middle class university student, rather than someone famous whose life is collapsing in the scandal du jour.

I believe the goal of life is experience. I don’t believe you gain much from doing the same thing over and over whether it’s eating the same food, speaking the same language, or living in the same city. There is enough hard hitting journalism out there, and enough scandals to keep gossip columnists employed for decades, but hopefully there is something different to be taken from words about such cheesy topics as love, fear and ignorance.

There is something to be appreciated in the fact that even those who hate these words take the time to read them each week, and even comment on their idiocy. It’s new for me to appreciate criticism, but it took effort and thought to dislike my words and they inspired a feeling strong enough to inspire their thoughts in return.

At the very least, the hatred of these words will keep people coming back in hopes of finding more to comment on. Making them think and react and experience something different, which is worth something even if they hate it.

Perhaps one of these days I’ll even follow the lead of those intrepid souls who brave the cheesy waters of my column each week and read the sports section.

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