hedging for happiness + a menu of joys
Southwest had a big sale this week, so I bought a bunch of flights. I made them somewhat impulsively; the only place I actually need to go is San Francisco, for a friend's wedding. The rest — to Seattle in March, Phoenix in April, New York in May — are merely for fun. I'm thrilled with the prices, but they add up!
Home > SEA > Home: $241
Home to PHX: $133
PHX > SFO: $85
SFO > home: $119
Home > LGA > Home: $203
Total: $781 (yikes!)
I worry that all these flights (3 one-ways and 2 round trips) might cause me problems if I get a job before then. I booked the cheapest fares I could find which usually means flying on Tuesdays, and if I land an in-person job or one with little paid time off I might be in trouble.
I rationalize this risk by imagining that I'm hedging my bets. I want go on all these trips and find a job, and by booking them like this I know I'll get one or the other. If life surprises me with a palatable employment offer, I'll take it and cancel any incompatible flights (and receive flight credit back for another time). And if I'm not employed in a few months, I'll get to go on some nice trips. It's a win-win if I ever saw one.
These trips have lifted my mood. Feeling good is still a faraway goal, but at least now I have something to look forward to, which I've been short on after the holidays. The improvement might prove short-lived if plans fall through or once I tell my parents, but now that I'm thinking about it, why should I? I'm an adult, right? What will they do, refuse to send me to the airport? I can just Uber to the train station.
While a thousand dollars seems worth it when I frame it like that, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about the cost. I'm not in danger of going bankrupt by any means, but without a steady salary I feel incredibly self-indulgent spending all this money for fun. I'm saving on housing by staying with friends for most of these trips, but each of these excursions is a week long. Three weeks of eating out adds up, so I'll have to remind myself to be frugal.
(EDIT: Plans fell through, so I canceled my trips to Seattle & New York. Ah, the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away! Naturally, I am slightly miffed (especially because I thought I might be able to meet a certain Bear pal), but on the bright side at least I won't have to worry as much about work and money. I feel kind of silly looking back at what I've written now but I don't want to waste self-reflection so I'm just going to leave it there.)
Speaking of joys, yesterday a friend sent me this snippet from an interview with the poet Leila Chatti:
I believe in the power of creating small joys, instead of waiting for a big one to arrive miraculously in your life. I made a list of these joys so I can refer to it when I’m deeper in the fog, like a menu to order from. 100 joys. They’re simple, but effective—things like bubble baths, calling a friend, dancing, buying flowers, eating dark chocolate, a cup of tea. Some months, I have to challenge myself to meet a quota, when I’m feeling very down. It helps. Little step after little step. Little light after little light.
This made me wonder — what would go on my menu? Can I even get close to 100? Let's see...
- My favorite way to manufacture joy (though wonder is probably a better word): setting aside time to listen to classical music undisturbed. Nice headphones, dark room, and a long, substantial work I can get lost in: Rachmaninoff's piano concerti, Granados's Goyescas, Elgar's Enigma Variations. Listening to one of these from front to back cleanses my soul.
- Going to a nearby park. Bonus points if it has water, especially running water. I like lakes and ponds, but the layered gurgle of rivers makes them my favorite. I can stare at their flowing waters for hours.
- Playing soccer. I enjoying playing on my own and with my regular group, but playing a good pickup game with strangers is a special experience. The spontaneity and serendipity renews my faith in humanity and life.
- Writing a card or letter to a friend, especially one you haven't written to in a long time. I'm happy when I write and think of the friend, happy when I finish, and happy yet again when it arrives (fate permitting).
- Reading a good book of poetry. It's hard for me to stumble upon a book of poetry that resonates with me, but when the verses do hit everything feels right in the world.
- Taking a mindful walk. Did you know listening to birdsong is good for your mental health? Sometimes I'm tempted by Spotify to listen to music on walks, but I try to listen to my surroundings when I can. It's better for inspiration and relaxation.
- Taking care of my body, by foam rolling or stretching or doing yoga. This one really makes me feel better after I've done it, but I don't do it as frequently as I'd like because it requires putting myself in uncomfortable positions for the payoff.
- Sitting in front of the space heater when it's cold.
- Immersing myself in a good book of fiction.
- Looking at art, whether by going to an art museum, watching a documentary, or checking out exhibits online.
I didn't expect to get 100, but 10 feels a little sad. I looked to Leila's list for inspiration; I like flowers and dark chocolate and tea too, though I wouldn't say they bring me joy. To me, joy is stronger and longer-lasting than the sensation I get from eating or drinking something good. I'm not sure I'd associate joy as the primary emotion for many of the activites on my list either. Listening to music makes me feel more wonder than joy. Taking a walk brings me tranquility, and stretching gives me physical release and relief. Does feeling good physically count as joy? I don't think so. Joy is a mental state, isn't it? (Am I splitting hairs here?)
In writing this list I realized I don't often go out of my way to treat myself. I rarely feel like I deserve it, and whenever I do end up splurging the enjoyment I get is always tinged with guilt. I'm undecided if this is a bad thing. After all, just because my idea of self-care doesn't align perfectly with capitalism's doesn't make it less rejuvenating to me. I take care of myself by sleeping early and letting myself worry less about things. But maybe my tendency to deny myself things is something I need to unpack
with a licensed professional in a later wordvomit.