Why Does Everyone Look So Happy?

The following essay is what was published in the 2018 editions of Minnesota’s Emerging Writers: A Nonfiction Anthology and America’s Emerging Writers: A Nonfiction Anthology. I felt that it would now be appropriate to share the piece since I am posting personal blogs . I hope you enjoy it and pick up a copy of either anthology to own not only my essay, but those of my fellow emerging writers in Minnesota and around the United States.

Why does everyone look so happy? This is a question that I ask myself often and it finally has bugged me enough to try and answer. Why does everyone look so happy? I am primarily talking about social media, and I believe the obvious answer is that we are able to edit our lives down into 280 characters or 6-second videos that are bite sized attempts at escape from the dreary and weary troubles which wear us down on a daily basis.

The inherent properties of social media mean we don’t need to have original thoughts because we can share and repost content created by someone else. I don’t mean to say this as something strictly negative, especially because I have done so as well. I think it speaks to the human condition of sharing our lives; the comfort in knowing that yes, things are bad for me right now, but they are probably bad for someone else too. This solidarity through suffering seems to be one of the main facets of why we regurgitate and share the things we see on the Internet and various other forms of media.

But why does everyone look so happy? Are we smiling only when the camera is pointed at us? Do we create situations or go to events simply for the photo opportunity? If I go out to dinner with friends or family, why do I feel like I have to take pictures and post about it as soon as possible? Who am I trying to impress? It clearly isn’t those I am with in person since I took the time to post about the moment rather than thriving in it.

Why does everyone look so damn happy? Are we kidding ourselves? Does the “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality permeate the underlying motivation in our daily activities? Much like photography and film, which are two prevalent types of media on the Internet, what we decide to post and share goes through a process of elimination and editing. I can choose to write a status that would be read how it would be heard if I had said it aloud, but I would be doing that on purpose.

For example, um, if I decided to put vocalized pause and, uh, ellipses… my apprehension becomes apparent because I have crafted the sentence in such a way as to convince you of how difficult it is to say what I want.

I have calculated and chosen what to show you in my sentence and, through this, you don’t get an honest picture of what I am feeling. I can write to tone and inflection, I can change my vocabulary to increase the verisimilitude and wax poetic in order to belittle and condescend if I so wish. I can choose whether or not to tell you that I checked the definition of verisimilitude to ensure that I was using it correctly.

The Internet gifts us with precious seconds or minutes in order to bolster our defenses in an argument, or to google a snippet of poetry or song lyrics to better caption an Instagram post. We have control over what we show others and often that control is relinquished due to the fact that many people don’t often think before they post. Perhaps this is something that I have come across more since starting my own blog; I must be cognizant of my intentions as a writer and the way in which I use my voice, because it is surely not something that was in the forefront of my mind in the last nine or so years that I have had a Facebook account.

So the question is no longer, why does everyone look so happy; the question is, if everyone is able to look so happy, why can’t I? I have watched a few TED talks that cover happiness and self-fulfillment, and from what I have gathered, happiness is something that we must each qualify for ourselves. Now, I realize this might sound a bit like common sense, but I’m not sure that it is routinely thought of as such. When we think about what would make us happy, we generally dream of a better car, a bigger house, the love of someone else, the life of someone else. If only I could make more money, if only I could talk to that guy or girl, if only I could be discovered by a talent agent. We leave so much of this up to circumstance; we blame not ourselves, but the world around us for our lack of contentment in our search for happiness.

I include myself in this and it has taken more than a few harsh, but honest, words from friends and family to make me realize this truth. I am lucky to have such wonderful and strange bedfellows in my life, and their contentment with themselves comes at a different cost than mine. In my family, we talk about picking our battles, and though some may compare it to an ostrich sticking their head in the sand when frightened, I believe that focusing on what is right in front of me rather than all of the injustice in the world will help retain my sanity.

What can I change about my life to make it better for myself and those wrapped up in it? Maybe this means I don’t have intimate knowledge about certain social issues, and though solidarity and empathy are important to me, I also know that I cannot take on the weight of everyone else’s suffering. Perhaps that is the secret known to everyone smiling in those photographs; they are concerned simply with the moment and those around them. We can only change what is in our power to control, and it is through exercising this agency that we can fake the smiles, focus on those around us, and perhaps one day feel the pull of our cheek muscles in genuine glee.

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Music Monday: “Wash.” by Bon Iver

musicmonday

Music Monday is a meme, created by Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek, where I focus on a song I absolutely love and feel needs to be shared.

Song: “Wash.”
Artist: Bon Iver
Album: Bon Iver (2011)

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Review

Flashback Friday

Perpetually Past Due

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Published in 1997 as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, published in the U.S. in 1998

Pages: 309

Genre: Fantasy, magical realism

 “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

The legacy of Harry Potter is undeniable and the critical acclaim is well deserved. The first Harry Potter book not only broke records for sales but also brought about the different genres and categories we have today on the New York Times Bestseller List.

I am going to say outright that this book is as good the third time as it was when I read it for the first almost seventeen years ago. The characters are well fleshed out and J.K. Rowling has a ridiculous amount of talent in the way that she switches from…

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The Inkheart’s Prayer

I am enamored with the aspects
you choose to share. Such beauty transcends your
physical glory and
what you believe to be the
flaws of your mind.

Who am I to place the ideal of
my fascination
upon you?
Why should you carry this burden?

I see what you want the world to know, but seek
that which you would hide.
I know myself;
if I could only beg the same from this
Aphrodite who
mirrors your steps.

Haunts my dreams.

Your struggles,
your triumphs, your plans
and regrets
would be a nourishing nectar.

Would that I could do the same
for you. Be the same
for you. Prostrate myself

For You.

I am at a loss, yet cannot cease blabbering in the radiance
of your complexity; the glory
of your authenticity.

Be a balm for the lonely hearts; always.

Know that you brought this man to
slit his wrists and pour forth a

Prayer

in Ink.

The Long Ships – Review

Flashback Friday: The Long Ships – Review

Perpetually Past Due

Röde Orm by Frans G. Bengtsson

Published in 1941 and 1945, first published in English in 1943 as The Long Ships

Michael Meyer translation

Pages: 503

Genre: Adventure saga

“Along the coast the people lived together in villages, partly to be sure of food, that they might not depend entirely on the luck of their own catch, and partly for the greater security; for ships rounding the Skanian peninsula often sent marauding parties ashore, both in the spring, to replenish cheaply their stock of fresh meat for the westward voyage, and in the winter, if they were returning empty-handed from unsuccessful wars.”

The Long Ships is an epic that would feel welcome on a mahogany bookshelf sitting between Beowulf and TheOdyssey. At least, that’s my understanding. I’ve never read Beowulf and it has been years since I read TheOdyssey so I kind of have to take people…

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Virgin is Such a Dirty Word

I once had a friend who was a firm believer in astrology, so she was proud to inform me that I am a Virgo since I was born on the 22nd of September (which is also the fictional birthday of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, so shout out to them); the symbol for Virgo is the maiden, or virgin, and I don’t think that she realized how accurate that is. Yes, I am a 26-year-old virgin (now the Hobbit reference makes sense, right?); I’m sure questions are running through your mind about how this could come about, and I hope to give some insight into the choices I have made throughout my life, some of which may surprise you. Don’t worry, the featured image is simply an allusion to the most famous of virgins; there won’t be any preaching in this post.
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