Chasing Hummingbirds

A memory came to me recently while finishing up a few tasks at the office one late night. It was a day over the summer at my last job, when one of my bosses took me out for lunch at this adorable cupcake and wine bar on Carmine. Over veggie burgers and iced tea, we caught up on our lives, personal, professional, everything. This was just before everything around me in the fall started imploding, so I remember giving her a smile and saying that I was fine; internally I was running through everything happening in that confusing time, residual anger at The Child, ongoing struggles to keep up at work, and the then-impending one-year anniversary of single LB. I remember my boss nodding as I gave her the typical “I’m going to step it up” speech, and she let me ramble on about goals and such until gently interrupting me to say two things: first, she believed in me and knew that I could do it; and second, she had a question for me: “Are you happy here?

“Are you happy?” is such an interesting and loaded question. In the context above with a boss involved, there is no other answer but “of course!,” whether that’s actually true or not, but in typical context, that’s a question I hear more from Mama B, or my lovely friend M, where I can tell them “maybe” or “I’m not sure.” On the one hand, happiness is the easiest thing in the world. It’s as simple as a smile from the Starbucks barista who is rapidly becoming your best morning friend, or snuggles from a pitbull and a pug before leaving for work in the morning. It’s the steady calm from regular yoga and looking at this life I’ve created for myself, a job I finally love, an apartment that’s all mine, and the understanding of Self that comes with being single for a long time. But on that same token, happiness is fleeting, it’s fickle and scary and it’s hard to hold on to; chasing happiness is like chasing hummingbirds, you see it for a moment and in the three seconds it takes you to run with an outstretched hand, it’s moved on. Asking someone “Are you happy?” is almost a dangerous question, because the answer depends on what’s happened in the past five weeks, four days, three hours, two minutes or even a second before.

I was riding such a high for most of 2015, reaching these yoga goals, recharging my professional life and making the decision to stay away from dating this year in favor of personal improvement. And truly, I think I’m still up there, but my entire routine has been disrupted in three short weeks, and I still haven’t found a time to settle in. This all culminated last week on Friday, leaving the office just before 10, where the rest of my night involved packing to be away from home for 9 days, first staying at D&D’s place to watch their pups while they’re in El Salvador (casual) for the week, and then leaving from there on Saturday for the annual Boston weekend with Mama B and Twinster. It hit me last Saturday night, just before leaving for my fashionista C’s golden birthday celebration, how tired I am and how things aren’t slowing down. Rather than taking this information like an adult, however, I proceeded to drink too much too quickly at the bar, forsaking all memories after about 11pm to the evil clutches of whiskey, and waking up on Sunday with a pounding headache and two dogs looking for breakfast by licking my face. I spent most of the day on the couch feeling terrible: how am I 26 years old and still blacking out like I’m back in college? Have I learned nothing? Why am I doing this to myself? Am I happy?

Last night I was leaving the office on the earlier side from what’s become the norm in the past few weeks, rushing to the Upper East Side in a sleet-storm, pushing through the 6 train crowds like a crazy person. A boss that I’ve worked with before was leaving at the same time, so we walked the short distance to the subway together and took a few minutes to catch up. He’s newer than I am at the new company, so we traded stories from our first few weeks and laughed together at how it’s been so crazy so quickly. We reached the subway, and just before parting ways, he asked me how I was doing with everything. “I know it’s been crazy,” he said, shaking sleet from his coat, “but be honest, LB: are you happy?”

In the two seconds before I answered him, my mind raced to 60 hour weeks, late nights every night, how I haven’t been able to update the blog nearly as often as I’d like and how I’m already so tired and it’s only Wednesday. I thought of so many changes, new responsibilities, new commute, disrupted schedules and everything else from the past month. It’s been crazy, for sure, but I smiled after those two seconds, looked him right in the eye and simply said “Absolutely.”

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Insomni-uuuuuugh

Right now it’s 3 in the morning, and I’ve been up for the past hour and a half. There’s no reason for my being so awake right now: I didn’t do anything crazy this weekend, aside from grocery shopping on Saturday night and a walk with my work buddy S on Sunday afternoon; I didn’t take any medicines that would disrupt my sleep pattern and frankly, I’m freaking tired. But for whatever reason, it’s 3 in the morning on Monday and I can’t fall back asleep. I may be a morning person, but this is clearly a little excessive. I mean, I rarely have insomnia like this. Restless sleep at times, sure, but I love sleeping, and I’m a crab if I haven’t gotten enough. So when things like this happen, I try to pinpoint what’s going on, either internally or externally, that’s clearly keeping my mind running fast away from sleep. That’s not always easy, as it frequently involves admitting a hard truth I’ve been trying to avoid for a period of time, but in this case, I know exactly what’s going on to keep me up.

There’s a tide of change in the air in my life right now, a long-coming shift away from something that hasn’t made me happy in, well, months. My lovely friend M and I were talking a lot about that this weekend, finding your own happiness in life. She made the point that our generation, the slightly-older millennials, aren’t just the self-important assholes the media wants us to be, living unemployed at home until our late twenties, begging our parents to pay our rent until we’ve “found ourselves.” Obviously those people exist, but for the people like M, like me, like most of our friends, we’re the generation that will find a way to work that makes us happy. We’re focused on our own well-being and standing out, making a name for ourselves doing something that no one else does, or at least doing something better than everyone else. Our generation is the one that will work in the corporate grind for however long until we’ve found a way to shape our lives in such a manner that we can wake up every day and not start grumbling immediately that it’s time to go back to the same old, same old.

There’s a comfort in the same old, same old. There’s a beauty in a routine, but an ugliness in doing what you’re “supposed to do,” in staying somewhere or with someone that hasn’t made you happy in months because it’s the “right thing to do.” I’ve gone through so many major changes in the past year, that I don’t even feel like the same person I was going into 2014. I look back on that girl and wonder that she was holding back so much of who I am now for so long, trying desperately to be someone that someone else wanted instead of embracing change and being who she wants to be. I had a moment recently where I was sitting with a decision to make, wrestling with it really, about whether to take a first step in making yet another big change after things finally seemed to be settling down. I went back and forth for a while, saying it was too soon, saying I didn’t even know if it was the right idea, trying to push myself back to enjoying the monotony that a part of my life had become. I finally stopped after two days of back-and-forth and just stared at myself in the mirror. “You’re not happy,” I told the confused girl looking back at me, “and you have the opportunity to do something better. How is this even a choice?”

It’s now 3:30 in the morning and I’m still wide awake. I’m waiting on the calm before the storm, the grace period that always precedes a a major shift in life. Who can say if the storm will be a spring shower or if it’ll mirror the snowpocolypse expected to hit New York this week; who can say if things will work out in such a manner that I look back a month from now and see another new person, one who has a smile on her face because she wants to, not because she’s forced to. There’s a lot of uncertainty going into this week, starting with a random night of insomnia. But I’m not going to concern myself with all of that quite yet. No, for right now, I’m going to shut down my computer, snuggle up with little miss a little closer, and hopefully, finally fall back asleep.