OPINION: All tears in moderation


Cameron Gorman headshot

Cameron Gorman

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” — John Lennon.

You’ve inevitably heard the above quote at some point in your time here, probably on Reddit or Facebook or some other social media sharing site. It’s attributed to John Lennon, and so the quote probably has some sort of black and white photo along with it of the man himself gazing pensively out into the middle distance. You know, the kind of photo every young artist imagines there might be of themselves someday.

It’s supposed to be motivational and I suppose on its surface it is. After all, everybody wants you to be successful, to make money, to keep going down that long black road. And you just want to be happy.

There’s nothing wrong with that as a general idea. Being happy is a nice thing to aspire to. It’s one of the lightest, sweetest feelings you can experience.

Happiness is sort of like sipping a really sweet tea. It’s smooth, satisfying and when you’re done, you get the ghost of the sugar on your tongue. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? It doesn’t last. Eventually, your cup will run dry. It doesn’t last, because it cannot last. It’s not supposed to. Can you imagine that sticky-sweet taste all year? Hanging around through the passing of the seasons, not letting up any room for saltiness, bitterness, or savory foods? No. Well, can you imagine being happy all the time?

Happiness, as something to aspire to, can be motivational. It can be a goal or a big, floating thing to want someday for yourself. But if you’re using it as a measuring stick, it can also start to become an unattainable goal. Sure you’re okay today, but you’re not happy. So what’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with your life? Surely there is some failing here if all you want is to be happy and even that is not within your reach.

I beg to differ. Yes, some things can be changed. But there will always be bad days. You could live in a charming cottage by the seashore with a billion dollars in the bank and a menagerie of your favorite kind of pet, and you would still have a day when your favorite sun hat blows into the ocean. Bad days are part of being human − and so is sadness, frustration and anger.

Can you imagine if films, books or radio shows were all happiness and light? What would the characters do? How would they affect us? And what of ourselves? We would have nothing to draw on, no experiences to share, nothing to make the anticipation of the sugar so wonderful. I love tea, but if I were to drink it all the time, I think I might become a little sick of it. So, yes. Long for happiness! It’s the human way, after all. But when you are happy, remember to savor it. That way, when the bad comes along, you have something to tide you over. The bad will always come, that much is certain. And the good will always follow.

“What is happiness, anyhow? Is this one of its hours, or the like of it? — so impalpable — a mere breath, an evanescent tinge? I am not sure — so let me give myself the benefit of the doubt.” — Walt Whitman

 Cameron Gorman is a columnist. Contact her at [email protected].