the mystification of what really makes you happy: unease, mania and self-actualizing

You know what’s really shattering…being confronted with the peculiarity and illogic of circumstances that bring you happiness – fleeting, lingering – whatever the variety most familiar to you.

You know what makes me happy? Or rather the particular series of events that for me, usher in feelings of content, confidence, inspiration and the ability to be present? I didn’t either up until several hours ago, although I did have the slight inclination that perhaps my own desire to ignore everyone contacting me, get high and attend a public lecture alone may grant solace, if not transformation. Since I moved to Vancouver, about three years ago, I made it a personal practice to lie about my whereabouts to those who inquire for a night and attend various niche events or public lecture/film screenings completely alone. Only recently, or about a year into this, did I begin to pair the half joint 10 minutes prior to the starting time with this occasion.

The idea of being completely anonymous, in a room full of strangers that for some reason or another decided to spend their thursday or friday night hearing an author read-aloud her paper on “Transgendering Nietzsche” or a panel of psychoanalysts discuss the pathology behind Donald Trump and his supports was completely intoxicating. You’re not bound by time (I can leave at any point without consequence), you’re not expected to retain any information, only encouraged to engage with it for the hour and a half it’s being presented (although these are the lectures I seem to remember with far more clarity than the mandatory ones apart of my program) and you can fully engage with the present moment only to feel liberating and terrified by the expansiveness of knowledge and the layers of meaning only being revealed to you now.

What I’m saying is that, several months ago I got high and attended a panel discussion where the lecture hall was beyond capacity, the aisles full of eager individuals perhaps also chasing an experience like I was. I remember feelings as though I was floating as I found my way home – a feeling that happens quite rarely but has the power to lift me out of an existential hole. So today, I did the same. I told one person I was going to the lecture with someone else and told that someone else that I was going with the other person. I could be completely alone, enjoy the lecture, feel both captured and overwhelmed for about a two hours and then leave, with a weight lifted off my shoulders, a lightness where anxiety and self-consciousness previously took up space, a sense of awe, presence and mindfulness – an appreciation for the vastness of the universe and of my own possibilities and insignificance.

It worked – again. Same formula: solitude + anonymity + marijuana + psychologically shattering/philosophically inspiring content = ability to feel at peace/present. I don’t know why this works so well, but it does. In fact, I took a voice recording as I was walking towards the subway station to collapse this bliss into audio format. Here’s the hysterical disillusion of it all…

A: “So a fascinating thing that seems to happen to me is a series of events, well, there’s two and basically, I’ll go to a public lecture at SFU…it’s funny that I’m nervous and I’m literally talking to my phone right now…god I just talked in a lecture…oh my god. I could feel my heart in my throat. I told myself the question, I had been thinking about it the entire time and still totally fucked it up.

But anyways, the series of events that keep occurring I’ll like get really stoned, go to a lecture, and walk out, feeling so inspired by the world, for some reason, – feeling like I have so many brilliant points written down to later draw upon….I walk down the street, *sigh* feeling so good… and smoking a cigarette, my first of the day – trying to save money – and … some guy will pas me and then all of a sudden, from out of nowhere, said guy will be fucking…hold on, I’m just gunna sit…um, he’ll approach me, “hey, I just want to tell you..” and I’m like “oh, did I drop something?”, I know I didn’t drop anything, I point to the whole in my bag, “did I drop something there’s a hole in my bag.” and he’s like “no, no malfunction” and I’m like okay *sigh* and I know what he’s going to say. He’s like “*laughs* “you look super cute” and I’m like “you look super tan” *laughs* and then I just walked away. And then I was like “oh, I’m late, I have to go”, obviously I wasn’t rude about it but um, previously I like made the mistake of like oh my god…engaging with men, giving them my number and then they get upset because I never text them back. But like, I don’t know, now I know better? Also, this guy, he was like super tan, I was like “did you go somewhere?” because when I said he was tan he was like, put off and so I was like “did you go somewhere?” and he was like “ya, sort of”, and I’m like “oh ya, I figure we can tan here, we have a sun here too, I just discovered that.” *sigh* oh god, anyways, that’s what keeps happening to me, peace out.”

And that – that is a great depiction of mania. Walking on the street, talking into your iphone, so full of something to say that you record yourself saying it just as an experiment to play for your future depressive self in reflection/ to put things into perspective when the world seems hollow and you feel like you’ll never have anything to say again. I’ve actually done this on several occasions. In May, when I had just begun UBC’s two month ethnographic field school, I did the same, but that time I was walking through Chinatown talking into my phone around 12pm in the afternoon sharing ideas about drug ethnography and addiction. These are moments in which I look back with fondness and curiosity: who was that girl, why did they have so much to say, why did they feel she suddenly had the energy to articulate herself, or why did she even try?

That’s the most frustrating part of all of this: the lack of emotional memory, perspective and rationality to live knowing that there be moments like this and there will be periods where you have nothing to say, where you can’t seem to bring yourself to even trying anymore. This is why I am so in love with the idea that maybe I can find or construct moments or situations that bring some sort of escape or relief from the absolute emptiness and total futility of an extended existential void. My only fear is that if one day, for some reason, I promise myself that tonight you’ll smoke the rest of that joint, sit in the SFU Harbour Centre to enjoy a lecture and it’ll all be okay again, you’ll find your desire to move forward in life, and it doesn’t work – when the formula fails, I’m afraid I won’t have something else/another formula at my disposal when the angst hits.


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