Bridget Jones said many invaluable words of wisdom in her time, my personal favourite being ‘I was so stupid I didn’t mean what I meant.’ But another of her best quotes, in my opinion, is ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.’
Now, she was referring to trading in a stable home life for sleeping with Hugh Grant, and frankly I don’t think she had much to complain about. But a lot of the time, it feels to me like life only puts the sun out to watch me get burnt. Sometimes I’ll be walking down the street, really dazzlingly pleased to be alive and I’ll trip over my own pigeon toes. The universe has a lovely way of keeping you humble.
In a world where the standards of achievement are so high, it’s hard to take any happiness or contentment at face value. You’re constantly speeding up, losing weight, gaining skills, getting smarter, feeling less. At least, that’s what it seems like we’re supposed to be doing. Being pleased with yourself is not only spectacularly un-British (I can thank my Canadian upbringing for the way I walk around the library like I own the place), but it also doesn’t fit in with the standards of ‘quality of life’ that are being placed on young people today.
Happiness has become this elusive, dream like quality that only very silly people or very selfish people are deemed capable of achieving. How can you sleep at night in the knowledge that you’ll probably never own a house? How can you feel good about your new jeans when you are never going to look like Kendall Jenner? How can you fall in love with someone when you know that the emotional shit show that is the patriarchy is going to pour cold water on it before it starts?
I’m generally quite a happy person, and this is something I work on. I skip probably more than I should, I have a worrying capacity for throwing myself headlong into situations that look risky to everyone else and I have finally embraced how much I love pink. But these happinesses, big and small, always feel like they’re going to slip right out of my hands because I’m not sure that I deserve to be happy. Who am I to be content? And is there even any point, when you know that those sunlit mornings where everything seems possible and those quiet, suspended midnights where the entire world has shrunk and is laid out right there in front of you will be replaced by days that feel cold before you even wake up?
And (hopefully) I’m not the only one who feels like what looks like happiness is often actually sadness, with a timer attached to it. But I don’t think that’s because life isn’t beautiful and magnificent, but because we’ve been taught that we don’t actually deserve to lead fantastic, exciting lives.
I’m always braced for the resounding slap that comes after one of life’s kisses but I don’t think I’m willing to give up on the kisses full stop. Just because we might not live lives that will feature in Vogue doesn’t mean our lives won’t be meaningful. Sometimes, happiness isn’t a test, but if it is, don’t assume you’re going to fail it.