Redefining Smart, Happy
When you are a young teenager you fall hardest for the smartest boys who get in the dumbest trouble, flunk out first, drink the most, ground the world down with their sky high IQ's, spouting injustices into abandoned buildings and empty rooms. You ask yourself if you'd rather be smart and miserable or dumb and happy as if you have to choose, as if you get to. You're certain that if you ever achieve happiness you will lose any tenuous grip on intelligence you might currently have. Read the toughest, longest books; edit yourself out of your own story. Your best friend tells you what her college professor told her. "Don't go to therapy. If you get it all figured out you'll never write again." When you tell your ex-boyfriend-the-lawyer the things you're doing to work on yourself, he warns you not to get too healthy or you'll start to suck like Aerosmith after they sobered up in the 90's. Acclimate to chaos, feel safe struggling, distrust contentment. Complain to your sponsor when everything starts going well. "Don't worry," she tells you. "This too shall pass." Begin to crave the lone moments of peace. Let some of your more dramatic and destructive friendships and inclinations and deeply ingrained daily habits go. Practice leaving yourself alone. Practice showing up as yourself on the page. Cringe with recognition when your six year old tells you, "But mom, all the funny kids are mean and the nice kids are boring." Cultivate a new kind of quiet. Become as fascinated with joy as you once were with suffering. Redefine smart as "figuring out how to be happy." Go towards the warmth and the light, not just the fire.