a new kind of happy

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recently, i was looking back at pictures from my late college years and my first few years in new york, and i had a shuddering thought: i used to be so much more fun. SO much more fun. i used to have fun at bars, at concerts. i had fun sitting on the couch with my girlfriends watching silly movies, poking fun at the hilarious characters on disney channel shows clearly made for children. thinking about this, my mind stopped on the scratched record: when did life stop being fun? when did i stop being fun? was i no longer any fun, not even a little bit, not at all?

this sent my heart straight into my stomach and i felt the first tiny prickles of salt in the corners of my eyes. i pride myself on being many things – but i’ll admit, the most fun isn’t one of them. my anxiety gets the best of me sometimes, as does my shyness. sure, i have my moments when i truly enjoy myself, but i’d be remiss if i believed i was anyone’s most fun friend. 

a few years back, i went through a breakup with my four closest friends from college. it broke me to my core. i left new york and moved back home, and moved through my parent’s house like a zombie for the next three months. i was convinced i would never get over this. i was a shell of a person, i had lost all of my sparkle. i developed severe anxiety. i thought people were coming to get me around every corner. i could barely sit through the new harry potter movie without having an anxiety attack. i woke each morning with a wet pillow; i cried myself to sleep nearly ever night. these girls were, i had thought, going to be my forever friends. and then one day, they weren’t, and the life i’d known shattered into pieces around me. 

eventually, i somewhat put myself back together, and moved back to new york. a tiny little piece of me was determined not to let this loss completely ruin my life. i got a new apartment, and i decorated it piece by piece to try and make it feel like home. four years later, it has just begun to feel like home. 

and while i’ve mostly recovered, if there is such a thing as recovery, and my anxiety has subsided, part of me has this intense fear that i’ll never be fun again. that i’ll never HAVE fun again. that i’ll never laugh like i laughed then. it’s like my life split into two pieces: the before, and the after. and sometimes i think the after me, well, i just don’t like her as much. and i’ve tried so hard to work through my issues, and to be okay with the past, and to get past the past. but sometimes, i worry i’ve failed miserably. especially in moments when i look at old photos and i see how my eyes shined with opportunity and promise and were so free of the kind of hurt that weighs you down.

i’ve been pondering this a lot lately – whether i’ll ever be that happy again, whether i might even be happy now, and just not know it, because i’m constantly comparing my current self to my old self. because here’s the thing: who i was in college, and who i was when i first moved to new york: that girl had yet to be tarnished by how hard the real world can be. she was a girl who lived free from worry and knew that she was well taken care of. she didn’t have to pay bills or stress about student loans, or wonder how she’d ever save up for a mortgage. sure, she needed a job, but she didn’t really think about that yet. she was a girl who was just living, instead of worrying.

over the course of the last few years, i’ve grown up. and in the process, i think what makes me happy has changed. as much as i push myself to go out to bars and get drunk, and as much as i sometimes have the best time ever dancing to top 40 at darkroom, i’m also really, really happy to sit in my PJs on my couch with my cat and eat gummy bears and catch up on 5 episodes of scandal in a row. and i think i need to learn to stop judging myself for being less “fun” – because maybe, i’m not less fun, i’m just different. i read this article in the atlantic recently, about how happiness changes with age, and it couldn’t have rung more true. of course, i’m not yet a mom who needs a bubble bath (does a whiny cat count as a child?), but i do have a sometimes stressful job, and 3 volunteer gigs, and a 6 days a week workout schedule. so sometimes i come home, and i just want to veg. and i need to stop beating myself up for doing that. because maybe my happiness is changing, and maybe that’s okay.

i still love a good concert. i still love to sing along to taylor swift at the top of my lungs in the car with the windows down. i still like to play celebrity with a big glass of vodka and ginger ale in my hand. but i also like to have friends over for dinner and drink wine at my dining table instead of attempting to grab an overpriced drink at a crowded bar. i still smile, and i still laugh, a lot. so while i might not be the most fun girl in the room, i’m still me – albeit a slightly more reserved version of me. and let’s face it, i was never going to be the world’s greatest party girl. but i do make a mean chocolate chip cookie. 

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