Happiness is subjective, but mine isn’t


Millie Alt

The bright white of the sun, so like my happiness, on a day when I was truly happy, both subjectively and objectively

Happiness is subjective.

My happy may feel like misery to a bystander. My life in shambles looks like organized chaos—my favorite kind. My happy comes with caveats.

I feel truly happy only a fraction of the time, but I don’t envy those who feel it more often. To me, the rarity of true happiness creates its intense beauty. It sears the eyes like the summer sun on the beach in Grand Haven: my favorite feeling in the entire world, but only tolerable in small increments, spoonfuls of sickly sweet honey.

Others live on happiness like water, drowning in it, requiring it daily, doused in pure joy. I live on happiness like sunlight. I bask in it, bathed in the rays of my own shining grin, but it is all too easy to get too much.

I live in moments, shimmering snapshots of pure, unadulterated joy. I hold these moments in my mind, and the memory of the sun is enough to get me through the winter. Too much may melt the snow I blanket myself in, the protective layer that I hide within during darker times.

I live in moments, shimmering snapshots, of pure, unadulterated joy.

Sometimes, though, the happiness of others may seem too dull for me. Their joy may feel, to my saturated brain, like satisfaction or contentment: less perfect than exhilaration, less perfect than the feeling of wind through your hair, hurtling down a sand dune, feet hot, mind clear.

My joy is every color of the rainbow combined in a bright, pure white flooding my brain. I laugh until I cry; I smile until my cheeks hurt; after, I sit in dark silence, soaking in the warmth of my own happiness, saving it for a rainy day.

In the end, it balances out, I suppose. My joy, so pure, so concentrated, so fleeting, weighs the same as constant watery contentedness.

So, in the end, I am happy. In the end, I find my joy tucked into my mind, memories packed into dusty boxes: a trunk from a trip around the world, a Tupperware full of my first seventeen years of life, a series of essays.

My head is filled with the sound of my own laugh, the sound of the laughs of the people I love. In the end, even if happiness is subjective, even if I am happy only a fraction of the time, even if I am easily burned by the strength of my own emotion, I am objectively happy.