Throwback Sunday

Aug 1, 2013 by

“That’s okay, and I’m alright. I guess I’ll be lost again for one more night.”

Albatross, Big Wreck

          Always in search of something new and budget-friendly to try, this past Sunday night, I went to Promise at Cherry Beach, a weekly pay-what-you-can (PWYC) dance party. (I went under the pretence that it would be free to enter, not knowing it was a PWYC event until I arrived with a cashless wallet. They let me in anyway. It pays to be cute, but FYI: you need to bring $5 if you want to check this out.) From afar, the purple, blue, and green lit trees were alluring, apparently containing Sunday’s best kept secret. Up close was something else entirely. The moment I passed the threshold of rain-soaked sand, I knew this wasn’t my scene. I felt like I had walked into an outdoor version of The Guvernment, a club that can best be described as a strobe lit warehouse, which I’ve refused to step foot in since age 16. Within seconds, I was transported to my all ages clubbing days, and I was completely unprepared for the trip.

          You couldn’t pay me to be 16 again. In fact, you couldn’t pay me to be any age again. (Okay, real talk: Send some tequila my way, reopen my favourite club, remind me to grab my fake, and then ask me. I may just say yes to a night in 18-year-old Maria’s hot red shoes. Just one.) For the first time in my existence, I love my life – as it is at age 23. On Sunday night, I wasn’t 23, and The Happiness Experiment didn’t exist yet. It was seven years ago, and the best way that I can describe how I felt was lost.

          At 16, I didn’t even know that I was lost. In retrospect, though, I was. I was lost every single year of my life until this one, when I decisively wiped my tears and picked myself up off the bathroom floor for the last time. Sunday night, stuck in the middle of drugged out EDM fans, my mind played wicked tricks on me, placing me inside some club in some skimpy dress with some fake friends circa 2006, oblivious to happiness. What was this, Throwback Thursday? Check your calendar, life. Thursday was three days ago.

          Disoriented and alone in a limbo between present day and my past, I realized something that I never have: I used to club to fill a void. How was I so unaware of this at the time? I got my first taste of clubbing at 15, and I fell in love with it instantly. It was an escape. That’s how I defined it until I turned 19, when I formed a new definition of clubbing altogether, inclusive of every negative word imaginable. Conscious of the retreat clubbing provided from everyday life, I never recognized that it was also a fill: something to do, something to jolt my desire to live, something to make me feel. Take me back to 23, I pleaded from within my own head. I don’t want to deal with this.

          I needed to leave, but my feet remained firmly nailed to the damp ground. Twenty-three-year-old me wouldn’t budge. I felt guilty. I was frustrated with myself for not enjoying what was supposed to be fun. Everyone around me seemed to be having a good time. Why couldn’t I just happiness experiment myself into a better mood? I could feel tears waiting for me to let them explode. I tried to swallow away the pressure that had become a physical reality in my chest. I nervously fingered the sleeves of my sweater, internally begging myself for permission to go.

          At last, I came to reason that not every experiment in happiness has to have a positive result, and that’s okay. I’ve gotten so accustomed to new things making me happy that I forgot there are things out there that won’t. There are things out there that will make me sad, and that’s fine. The Happiness Experiment isn’t about being constantly happy. It’s about discovering what I derive happiness from. It’s about learning to distinguish between what makes me happy and what doesn’t, and having the courage to walk away from the things that don’t meet my happiness standards. That’s my out, I thought: Be brave. Leave. Do not force yourself to stay in a situation that makes you unhappy. You are not 16 anymore, I reminded myself.

          My legs were no longer paralyzed. As I moved further and further away from the base, the sound of my former life faded with distance. I walked back into 23. I walked back into my finally well put together life. Though I had previously let myself go a lifetime without happiness, wasting my time drowning in depression, I am now out of the years-deep hole that I had dug with my own shovel. I am no longer filling a void. At 23, I am free.

Happiness Tip: Walk away from whatever makes you unhappy.

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