you’re a hard soul to save*

Sometimes, we forget that it’s okay to want to be happy. This idea gets pushed aside by other things – responsibilities, obligations, and the general day-to-day grind. Happiness, or even the idea of it, takes a very dark backseat. There are always reasons, mind you. Bills. Other people. What other people want. It’s almost too easy to forget to reach toward happiness in favor of other, more practical-seeming things.

I have to do this job, because I need the money. I have to stay, because leaving is too hard. I have to stay, because of my responsibilities. I have to keep quiet, because fighting is hard; it leads to unpleasant things.

I know a lot of people who are stuck in jobs that they don’t like, simply because change is hard. I’m not talking about the economic aspect, but the emotional one. The one that requires a deep breath and a spine – and a leap to do something different. Even if it seems crazy, like running off to join the circus, work in a zoo, or open a barn. There are always reasons to do the safe, easy thing. To stay where you are, because the devil you know is supposedly better than the devil you don’t know. However, to quote Mae West, “Between two evils, I always pick the one I never triede before.”

A friend of mine, once, was trying to explain a decision of his. On the surface, it seemed like a noble thing – something you could label right and leave in a nice, tidy box. You can label it, accept it, and then put it in whatever corner you like. At the end of his explanation, he said something that stuck with me, “It’s not like I’m saying that my life is over.” His voice was sad. His eyes were even sadder. Because, in a way, that is exactly what he was saying. Giving up something for something else is (on paper) a sacrifice. But there are times where that’s just insane. If you’re setting even the idea of your own happiness aside for something, or even someone else, what really happens to you?

You start to become a ghost, darlings. You start to disappear. You get sad. And you get angry. And you get lost. You lose yourself. Resentment builds up, pooling in your lungs like a swallowed scream. Disappointment shackles your leaden feet. Your smiles begin to slip from genuine to false, one by one, little by little. You become frustrated. Your days begin to blur, each one just a number. You stop laughing.

I’m not saying that it’s possible for people to be happy all of the time. That kind of thing only exists in the movies, or when you’re on vacation, or if you’re taking the good drugs (kidding, kidding). But if you cannot even fathom the idea of happiness, like a visible brass ring, how are you living? How are you any good to anyone else? (Hint: you’re really not. Because you aren’t you.)

Somewhere, there has to be a line. A thing you won’t cross. Something you won’t give up, for the sake of not losing yourself. As much as we try to forget sometimes, it is okay to want to be happy. Actually, truly happy. It’s okay to want something besides misery or even a vague idea of contentment. It is okay to want to wake up in the morning and not feel like you’re being ground into dust. It’s okay to want to smile and have it reach your eyes. It’s okay to want more than you have.

That doesn’t make you selfish. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you weak – no even in the least. And it certainly doesn’t make you evil or awful, or any other derisive adjective. It makes you human. It makes you strong, because striving for better things is how we grow. It’s how we become the best version of ourselves. It’s in those moments where we are our most brave, where we say this – no. no more. Where we stop accepting things as they are and start striving toward what they could be.

Could be, my darling hearts, is such a beautiful thing. It is a phrase steeped in possibility and hope. It is a phrase that is alive and alight for the idea of maybe. It is an open door. It is the beginning of a moment where we start to save ourselves. It’s taken me a very long time to realize that, sometimes, we can’t save someone else. We can try. We can throw them an emotional life-preserver or rope. We can be there. (And, often, that makes all the difference in the world – someone being there, where in front of you or on the other end of the phone line.) But, ultimately, life is not a fairytale. There are no knights on white horses. There are, however, a large amount of dragons. There will swallow you whole for breakfast, with or without ketchup. Because either way, you are a tasty human. (Yes, figuratively speaking. There aren’t any real dragons, Khaleesi.)

Yet, sometimes, the people in our lives prey, quite easily, on our insecurities and fears. Sometimes, the idea of change is off-putting to others. It upsets the equilibrium, tips a balanced scale over, and unsettles anyone who is afraid of trying. Cowards try to hold you back. Cowards try to keep you chained and shackled, not because it benefits you. No. Simply, it makes their lives easier. It also validates the way their clutch their fears and hide in the dark. Anyone who wants what is best for you will encourage and support you, even when it seems crazy. Even when it might disrupt his/her life. Anyone who won’t cheer you on? Well, you need to reconsider that person’s place in your life. They’re like emotional quicksand, a vampire staring at its food supply. A pox. A plague. A…have I made my point? Good. Moving on…

Your happiness matters. It is okay to want to be happy. That’s not a tragedy or a crime. It is not a thing unworthy of pursuit. It is not a terrible thing to want, despite how you are sometimes made to feel. Yes, in life, most of the time, you have to save yourself. But you also need to realize, my dears, that you are worth saving.

Do what makes you happy. Be with people who make you happy. Leave behind what, and who, doesn’t lift you up. This is the only life you get. And you should spend it being happy. Light the candle on both ends, dear hearts. It gives a lovely light.

*This is a line from the new, and fucking fantastic, Florence + the Machine song — Over the Love.

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