Happiness: Living For the Small Moments of Bliss.
I’ve often questioned my own understanding of what happiness is supposed to feel like.
I don’t say this in a sad or depressing way — the truth is, I learned how to mask my emotions when I was only a small child. The first time I remember actively attempting to hide my pain was when my parents filed for a divorce. I claimed to be okay. Little did they know I cried myself to sleep most nights.
Whether it was out of confusion, hurt, or emotional neglect, I’m not exactly sure. But there I was, lying under my pink and orange duvet, feeling things my tender heart could not yet understand.
Shortly after my father officially moved out, my siblings and I were split between two houses. After weekends with him, I would show up to school tired, sick, and bruised. My petite, fragile ballerina body was being damaged one piece at a time, by the same person who was supposed to love and protect me the most. He was the first man to ever break my heart.
But I still said I was okay. I continued to smile like my life depended on it, like nothing bad had happened the night before.
But one day, my elementary teachers started to notice the bruises on my arms and legs, witnessed me withdrawing from my friends, and frequently caught me falling asleep at my desk. They began questioning me every day, wondering what was going on at home, asking why I wasn’t my joyful self anymore. All I could do was put on a performance. A performance they ended up believing.
A small part of me wanted them to pick up on the fact that I wasn’t okay, but in order to survive, I thought I needed to convince them otherwise. This was when the lines became blurry. When I had a good day, I wasn’t sure if it was actually good. If I smiled, was it because I was truly happy? Or was it because I felt like I needed to pretend to be? I didn’t want to be a burden or a problem for someone else to solve.
All I wanted to be was happy. All I knew was that happy people smiled, so that’s what I did too. Until the day I couldn’t anymore. I never knew that smiling could lead to someone’s near death.
Around middle school, I started getting bullied. By this time, I was already in a dark mental state. I even asked for help, which is something I’ve never been particularly good at. I went to my seventh grade teacher looking for support and guidance. I put my mask down for only three minutes, and she told me I was being too sensitive. In response, I put my walls up even higher and didn’t let them down for anyone.
This wasn’t the first time I had been called sensitive by an authority figure, so I believed her. I was being sensitive; therefore, I didn’t have the right to tell anyone I wasn’t doing well. Every day, I had classmates telling me I looked like a boy, I was dumb, ugly, dramatic, better off dead. They wished I had never transferred to their precious school. My greatest fear had come true: my presence was a burden.
I took what they said to heart and lost any self-worth I had previously managed to keep. I was the farthest I had ever been from finding happiness.
My family didn’t love me. If they had, then they wouldn’t have hurt me as much as they did. They wouldn’t have neglected me. Abused me. Used me as a pawn in their sick games. The people at my school certainly didn’t love me either. But it was never their job too. Eventually, I didn’t love myself anymore either.
I was unbelievably broken, waiting for someone to see me, waiting for someone to save me, waiting for someone to show me what happiness was. No one ever did.
I tried to kill myself for the first time at the age of 14. I had no joy, no hope, no faith in the person I would one day become. I couldn’t see my future being anything other than what my past was. I didn’t see a life filled with real joy or happiness or love. All I could see was darkness. I wore my mask for too long and it finally broke. I broke.
The lake looked welcoming that night. A slight breeze caused small white caps to float across the water, looping for eternity. I sat on the beach for what felt like hours. Each minute soaking up my last breaths of the evening air. There was no one around, just me and my thoughts. The sand was cold, the water colder. I only put my toes in at first, but then I couldn’t stop myself.
Internally, I was numb, empty, and alone. Externally, I felt ugly and unworthy of taking up space in the world. My entire body slowly submerged into the water as I looked up and saw the moon staring at me. The surrealness I felt in this moment was both confusing and peaceful. The moon was the last thing I saw before I drowned. For a brief moment, I was gone.
It’s been six years since that night. I’m grateful that someone found me, saved me, and gave me a second chance at life. Honestly, some days I’m still not sure if I’m completely okay, but I think that’s alright.
One day, I will make a positive difference in someone’s life. I will fall madly and deeply in love. I will find someone in the same place as my 14-year-old self was and show them what being cared for and loved feels like. I will keep searching for happiness. I will continue to live for the small moments of bliss.
I will live for the warm feeling I get when the sun shines on my face in the morning, the adrenaline rush I get when I make eye contact with a cute person across the grocery store, the laughter I burst out in when I do something ridiculously stupid or clumsy, the comfort I feel when drinking iced lattes, and the strength and confidence I feel when I’m dancing.
I think maybe these small moments of bliss are what true happiness is supposed to feel like, but it’s hard to know for certain when you’re stuck looking at life through a broken lens.
Olivia Tjosvold is a creative writer, aerial enthusiast, and English student based in Calgary, Alberta. Most days you can find her exploring the mountains with her boxer Cooper or dancing on various aerial apparatuses. She firmly believes that an iced coffee can help solve any problem, even in the dead of winter. In the hopes of sharing positive messages and important stories, she is pursuing a professional career in the publishing field.