White picket fences. Gleaming smiles. Lean, toned bodies. Harry Styles. Ideals of perfection.
I had what some might deem the ‘perfect’ life. A downtown Manhattan apartment, furnished like a set for a Design Within Reach catalogue shoot. High ceilings; quirky Jonathan Adler tchotchkes; large coffee table books; the newest, sleekest Apple products. 40 Rivington, Apt 1 was modest in square footage, but the space was maximized and beautifully styled. As much as I’d like to take credit, the lion’s share is due to my now-ex-boyfriend Carson.
Newsflash: princesses don't fall in love with Prince Charmings and live happily ever after. Daddy sets Princess up with Prince Charming, but she experiments with her chambermaid, and Prince Charming gets so pissed off he turns into a horny toad, who stumbles upon a stable boy with a reptile fetish. Princess later falls for the Evil Queen, who used to just be a nasty queen… but that was years ago.
Unlike the arcs of our childhood fairy tales (the OC included), life doesn't bend toward “happily ever after” by default. Things don’t just HAPPEN. We have to take accountability for our own happiness, as active agents in our lives. Take the steering wheel and drive. But just because you’re in the driver’s seat, don't think that means you won't hit traffic or have to navigate an unexpected detour. Sometimes we’re so busy chasing perfection that we forget about the beauty of the journey, the beauty of the imperfection that is right in front of us. For our own sanity, we have to rejoice in the very fact that we created the situation we find ourselves in —that we had a say in our circumstances, good or bad. Besides, even if we reach some milestone we once associated with ‘perfection,’ the outcome is often not what we expected to find. And then we fixate on something more to be had ahead — a new goal post.
The reality is that happiness lies inside each of us, no matter where we are. We simply have to unlock it by taking ownership of our lives. Happiness is not inherent to a collection of home furnishings or the latest “it” accessories. Although, much like a dose of Xanax, they do help — temporarily. I am an experiential learner, and I found out the hard way.