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fake it ’til you make it by Amber V. '24

what is a healthy way to be happy?

I’ve been hesitant to write a blog — especially one that pertains to right now — because zoom is, ah, revolting. It’s no one’s fault perhaps but god, this semester is not what we all wanted it to be. So all the blogs I started stayed half-baked. Trying to romanticize bleary-eyed morning runs felt hollow, and much as I enjoy talking about books as if I did not read them all in the hours between 12 am and 3 — feeling rebellious for staying up so late, although I do not know who I was rebelling against except my future self in 9 am class — it felt sort of disingenuous. Because reading is great but I haven’t been writing, not as much as I’d like, and making everything seem rosy feels false.

On the other hand, I definitely didn’t want to write about the things that made me sad. We’re all struggling through Zoom, right? And I drafted a long thing about having chronic pain but that scared me, so I never finished. 

I think I don’t want to write something admitting I am not happy, not because I don’t want all you lovely strangers to know, but because I don’t really want to know, myself. Every weekend, I think, “This week we’ll make a schedule, kid, right? This week we’ll be happy, and then we can write a blog about how scheduled and happy you are.”

[I should note that on this day, November 7, I am happy, very fucking happy, and for obvious reasons.01 the election has been called!!! This week I have been pretty stressed, for equally obvious reasons.]

It’s not as if I’m sad most of the time — I am a pretty happy person when there aren’t outside pressures that would decrease one’s happiness (think living in a pandemic, taking classes on zoom, returning to high-pressure academia after a year of self-motivated work). But in the times when these pressures do exist, and I am not as happy as I want to be, I have this theory that I should take tangible steps to increase my daily happiness, and once all those steps have been taken, just fake it to make it. 

I’ve heard people say — usually to other people while I’m in the room — that I’m always happy. And I say, “Thanks, I try.”

I wonder sometimes if this trying is good or bad, if I’m doing it right.

I mean, the tangible steps part of this theory is great. For me, these steps are to go running, lift weights,02 like maybe twice a week, less than I plan for, but what can ya do? consume vegetables, or go on long walks where I talk to myself about why I am unhappy and what else I can do to be happy (usually, one of the former three). I think these things are all really good. Especially the last one, which provides a lot of entertainment in Cambridge — unlike Tucson, the neighborhood streets are not empty, and someone always stares. 

And then faking it — I mean I think it’s usually good. But I wonder if I lose depth. We cook for each other in our apartment, and everyone else makes their opinions known if they don’t like a certain dish, whereas I’m pleased with everything, even if it doesn’t taste great. Easily satisfied.

On election night, one roommate of mine asked another, “What’s wrong?”

“I’m not in a good mood,” she said. She didn’t need to say why. We were all watching the news.

But that made me realize that, even though I too thought we would lose, I was smiling, bubbly, as we all commiserated. Was my behavior not shallow? Should I not be upset?

Then in the following week, when I was upset, when I found myself distracted, I felt a sort of relief. I didn’t like stressing over the election, but at least I was stressed. I have some emotional depth.

Which is why, today, feeling actually happy is so much greater, because I’m happy for a reason. Because my emotions do in fact fluctuate with the state of the world, which I want to be in tune with. 

And I guess I want to feel the lows, although I don’t want to be sucked in to big and long-term lows. Whenever I cry or get angry, there is a part of me that is relieved that I have the capacity to feel these things.

I took this class I hate, even though I want to love it. Even though the problems excite me before I realize I don’t actually know how to do them. And this “fake it til you’re happy” thesis of mine hasn’t made me like the class, but I have made myself appreciate the professor. And I think that is good. I don’t want to be someone who spends every class railing against another person. I am often frustrated with the lectures or the psets, angry when things aren’t explained — but I feel more comfortable liking the professor, who is a good human with a life outside this class.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. I ran nine miles today, watched people cheer and cars honk in the street. I ate a lot of vegetables, and over-priced local eggs, and coffee which, after two literal months of learning the proper ratio of coffee grounds to water, does not taste like shit. I’m panicking a tiny bit, because I’ve got work piling up, and I don’t think I’ll get to it all if I take time to write. Especially not if my roommates and I celebrate tonight.

That’s the balance I’ve found for today.

  1. the election has been called!!! back to text
  2. like maybe twice a week, less than I plan for, but what can ya do? back to text