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i went out with a friend recently, one i haven't seen in ages--and by ages i mean years. it had been years. whole lives had passed between our last meeting. we went to a posh restaurant in the meat-packing district--one of those places that people say you simply must go when in manhattan. the girl who sat us wore a black dress, red lipstick, and a pill-box hat. the waiter spoke with a heavy french accent. we sat outside, at a tiny slip of a table. my dress tugged on my neck as i tried to find a comfortable (and modest) way to sit in the small folding chair. there was a garden across the street--with a large wooden table and sunflowers atop it. and the way the sun hit the stones of the patio caught my breath in my mouth.

there is always the moment, with old friends, when i must explain what i'm doing in this life.

no acting? why not? what then? writing? what kind of writing? and my answers become tedious and often vague because to answer them all well and truthfully and fully would be a whole (and pardon the language that's about to come) shit-storm of information. and some things are best unraveled slowly and carefully. so i gave some sort of (or i thought so) coy look and said, i've been learning how to be happy. i've figured out happiness for myself. and he looked at me incredulously and said, really, you figured that out? 

it's a bold statement. to say i've figured it out. i know. but i think in a lot of ways, i have.

i smiled, looked down at my latte (what else) and said, yeah, sort of, it starts with this (the latte). and a clean room--a clean room is essential to my happiness. 

i have a whole list of things. red lipstick. hoop earrings. a camera around my neck. live music. late-night conversations with my father. riding in the car beside my mother. trips to boston. sitting next to strangers on a bus. girlfriends that refuse to deal with nonsense. photo albums. any book by pat conroy (with the exception of south of broad--not mr. conroy's finest). living through fear. doing what i once thought impossible. the list is endless. or at least, that's the hope, that it should be never-ending.

but the list is only a sliver. i think what i've figured out is this: everything passes. and sadness does not negate happiness--it sometimes eclipses it, sometimes not. the two can live side-by-side. they can co-exist. there is a sadness in me this morning, as i write this, but that is not to say i'm not happy.

it's just that happiness is ever-moving and ever-changing and all i can do is be open to the possibility that every-once-in-a-while when i least expect it, i'll be so lucky to have it move through me and around me--to fill me and live there before it continues on.

do i have happiness figured out? as much as i can, right now. yes, i think so.

i've been feeling weary of my upcoming 26th birthday because i feel i've accomplished so little. i'm so near a number and so far away from any expectations i had for my life at this point. but realizing this last saturday morning that a little piece of happiness is mine, knowing i've just a wee of a handle on it? well, that's not so bad for a twenty-five year old nearing twenty-six, is it?


Vanessa said...

Don't feel wary. I'm 31 now, and 26 was my magic number. That was the year I found my bravery and everything started to happen for me. Whether it's 26, 28 or 32 you'll find your year. Trust me.

AbbieBabble said...

Not bad at all. Pretty freakin' remarkable, in fact.

This was a beautifully written post, Meg. The perfect thing to read on a monday morning.

PS While I was 25, I seem to have figured out that a clean room is important to my happiness, too.

Lottie said...

I don't think you are doing badly at all...you have figured out things that some people don't solve in a whole lifetime.

Loved the post as usual...I am in a similar predicament to you I think. Some parts of my life are figured out but there are many I feel I have to make excuses for because they are not what is expected or where they should be...maybe that is just me...and it is all so complicated.

But these posts help me so much and I know one day I will get there.

And you are right happiness and sadness can be side by side. How can true happiness ever be appreciated if there is not sometimes darkness to compare it with?

Sorry for my long response and way too much information. It just hit a nerve and I had to share.


sophie said...

your honesty is so refreshing and inspiring. rather than focus on the big life plan, it's so much more important to focus on what makes us happy. everything will unfold after that.

tu y yo said...

i loved this post - i was feeling sad and yet also happy this morning too, and it was the perfect thing to read, so thank you.

Mel said...

"girlfriends that refuse to deal with nonsense. photo albums...the list is endless. or at least, that's the hope, that it should be never ending.
... and sadness does not negate happiness--it sometimes eclipses it, sometimes not. the two can live side-by-side. they can co-exist. there is a sadness in me this morning, as i write this, but that is not to say i'm not happy."

So perfectly, perfectly said. Your posts are always a joy to read. You have such a way with words, articulating mere feelings and wisps of knowledge, bringing them full force to the front of the brain.


by r. said...

yes yes and yes.
i think 26 is going to be great for you. in my mind you've already accomplished a lot!

Dorothy A. said...

Wow, I really appreciate this post. I'll be honest, my initial reaction was "How overly simplistic and naive (sorry) to think that happiness is a list made up of silly, mundane things."

But you know what, you made me think -and I've come to agree with you.

Yes, you listed simple things, but really, it's those simple and little things that make up our experiences. We often take those mundane things for granted. Maybe if we appreciated them more, we'll realize we are a lot happier than we think.

Thank you for opening my eyes to a much needed revelation. :)

forward [e]motion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex said...

"i'm so near a number and so far away from any expectations i had for my life at this point."

Welcome to the constant nagging in my brain. I need to take a cue from you and just learn how to be happy with the blessings I have.

forward [e]motion said...

meg! i love that you have said exactly what i was trying to get at in a post i wrote earlier today, only yours was so much lovelier and perhaps not as vague as mine was!:


i find it so hard to describe my life at the moment (and it seems you do too) especially when what i'm doing can't really be explained in just one breath full - i don't have a conveniently packaged description of my life. instead, i too am celebrating the details. the perfect cup of tea in the morning. honest friends. an afternoon spent baking. a new big bed that looks and feels like a cloud that i love throwing myself on at the end of the day.

..and a good coffee definitely completes it.

bel. xx

Tucker said...

I think that's a lot to have at 26 years old. some people never figure it out! go meg!

Amanda Blair said...

You capture what we 20 somethings feel so perfectly. When I was turning 26 (btw it's not that bad. turning 25 was harder), I felt the same- what have I accomplished? But then I realized that I've made huge strides at understanding myself and figuring out the little joys that make my life better and that is something. Love your blog and all your posts...I really feel like you take the thoughts right out of my head!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post. You are doing it...living life with full appreciation of the grace of miracles that abound. I'm so lucky to have found this blog.

Jessica said...

Brava. I love this post. I agree - it is so hard, sometimes, to maintain your happiness when the outside comes into play - people's opinions, even when well-intended, can always tend to throw a wrench into my self-made plans if I am not 100% determined in them yet...but to have reached the point of contentedness you seem to be nearing as your birthday approaches, I think you should be very proud. Thanks for sharing this post!

Anonymous said...

this is a gorgeous post. I do think that you have it down. Do what you love, love doing it, and love being happy.
(and a latte every now and then doesn't hurt)

Paula @ thewilyweez said...

Oh this post is so eloquent & beautiful it gives me goosebumps! I think you have accomplished much more than you are giving yourself credit for.

BrightEyedWashingtonian said...

I agree with Vanessa. You will find your year. I turned 30 in May and I am convinced that this is my year, where that shit-storm that you refer to turns into a shit-storm of good things, amazing things, feats of luck, if you will. And I love that you love girlfriends who don't deal with nonsense. Ditto, sister. Dit-to.


Keiko said...

WOW. The last part of this post is so similar to one I wrote a few days ago. I believe that something beautiful is about to happen. When you least expect it, Meg. As silly as this sounds, I dreaded turning nineteen; I thought it to be some in-between age that was insignificant. But nineteen surprised me, for my life started all over again. Ironically, nineteen is my favourite age as of yet. I believe twenty-six will surprise you too. I'm convinced it's those tricky in-between ages that no one really thinks about or considers as special- they turn out to be nothing short of magical.

Remember, it's always darkest before the dawn.

Rachael said...

Thank you. This was really great for me to read. I'm 26 and in some ways, doing all the 'right' things but in others, I feel I've accomplished so little. It's not about hitting the milestones though... That makes our eyes constantly searching forward instead of in the moment, with our latte and clean room. I need to shift my focus to everyday happiness instead of always looking forward so I don't spend all my time later looking back.

Nostalgia said...

I'll say a banal thing: "Happiness is within you" - and I really truly believe it. 26th Birthday was really hard for me - I just got my MA and found some job that I was very unhappy about but really had to take, I felt isolated, I felt trapped. And number 26 sounded so awful, even in comparison to 27 or 28. I had a friend from Germany, who was in her late 40s (and a secret nun) and SHE was the one who helped me remembering that little simple things is what makes life happy - not circumstances.
I am so very tired these days - with little twins, almost no night sleeping, etc. But I am very happy. And, honestly, I check your blog every morning and your posts make me a little happier every time.

becky said...

I think finding this thing out at any age is pretty good going--to do it so young is exceptional. I don't think age matters, though. Not in happiness. Because I think that is a mightily dangerous thing--to set out goals of happiness based on time. We move at different paces; have different things filter in and out of our lives; have a different set of reactions and pauses depending on our place. Time: that's just number--something so removed from this thing called happiness. (I don't think most of this post made sense--or, for that matter, conveyed what I wanted to convey).

::: Wild lola/Naia said...

Meg, i love what you wrote, your words are full of sense. I like how you talk about happines and the wish to find it. So good!

Malin said...

Beautifully written, as usual. Finding out what makes you happy means you have come a long way. 26 will only make things clearer.

Claire Kiefer said...

For the record, I think you're doing just fine for 26. And what I would do to be 26! I am turning 30 TOMORROW and I am having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I will now be uttering the word "thirties" instead of "twenties." It's a big deal.

And I fear turning 30 for all the reasons you outlined. I think it is because we are girls from the south where people get married very young, and yet we've transplanted ourselves to these big metropolises where people--especially women--are floundering & independent for longer. Maybe. I have an ugly tendency to rattle off all the things I haven't done: find love, have a baby, buy a house, save any money, etc. etc. . . . but when I remind myself of the things I have done over the past ten years, then I feel a little better.


Anonymous said...

oh meg. there are so many things i thought i would have done by age 27. and so few of those things are even real anymore. but my life is awesome, even without the things i originally hoped for. it's hard to remember sometimes, but happiness comes from within... it's a perspective... an attitude. and i think you've got it. :)

michal said...

some people go their whole lives without realizing that happiness doesn't mean the absence of sadness. it's a fullness of life, an appreciation for who you are and what you have, that remain constant despite the sadness.

i think, in your 26 short years, you've accomplished something more important than a lot of people do in their whole lives.

little t said...

I loved this piece of writing, especially:

There is a sadness in me this morning, as I write this, but that is not to say I'm not happy.

Rebecca Campos said...


I've been reading your blog for quite a while now and it seems that every word you write is addressed to me and how I've been feeling about life lately.
Some of the things are not that happy, but this post, specifically made me realize I'm not the only one in the world to feel like that.
I'm about to turn 26 (in two weeks precisely) and sometimes it feels like I still have lots of things to get figured out.

Well, I had to re-blog part of your post on my blog.. if you wanna read it.. I'd appreciate that.

Thanks for those words.



Chelsea said...

loved this post. i feel like even at 40, i'll still have so much to learn, you know? it's about the journey in life, not the destination.

hugs to you friend. this will be your year!

wildchild said...

you've written beautiful words, yet again. i think it's an important realization that happiness and sadness can live side by side. it doesn't need to be one or the other - it can be everything, all at once. and you seem to be living life beautifully, achieving more than you're willing to admit to yourself. you've found your happiness for now and that's all that matters.

Mackenzie said...

meg, your list is beautiful. and so is the path your 26th year will take you on. i know that much is true. xo

Kate said...

I think you've accomplished a great deal. There's a number of people out here who you inspire and help whenever we read your writing.

I haven't realized it before, but what you said is so true. Sadness and happiness can live side-by-side. I think it's ridiculous the way some people think you can only have one emotion. We're so complex, it's hard to feel only one emotion at a time.

Jasmine said...

You're honesty is very refreshing! I'm sure you've got more in life than you think and happiness is surely the best starting point to fulfil further dreams or wishes. You have some great friends, a good relationship with your parents.. that's more than many people have!

Hope you have a great day. Don't be to scared of turning 26, it's just a number :)

Britti said...

The realisation that sadness and happiness can coexist and that I don't have to be happy and cheerful all the time kind of was the key to happiness for me.
I think if one's living his life to the fullest, enjoying every moment, learn what ever one can learn and just be happy - it doesnt matter what we have achieved or how old we are.

modest typewriter vintage said...

I'm experiencing this exact "illumination", and I'm learning that in realizing all these little things, I am progressing. Whether it's the actual progress I expected at this age doesn't really matter. It's hard to stop comparing myself to where others are in life, and where I am in life, but it's a key to my own happiness. I think you are right where you need to be- learning the little things is the key to all the big things.

Barbara said...

you write so honestly, and so close to what my own heart says. you just have the courage to say it. indeed i am impressed with you, as i am 32, and can only handle happiness when it is blaringly obvious in my face. but i do try to buy it a cup of coffee every once in a while to get it to come out and play. well done, and well written.

jessica lynn said...

love everything about this post. especially "conversations with my father. riding in the car beside my mother." so so so true.