The faded gold car I had seen earlier pulled up next to me.
‘Sister, where you dey go?’ the driver of the car said. He seemed to be in his late-thirties.
I looked at him and his car in confusion, not sure if he was a cab driver or just someone who wanted to give me a lift. It was a 2-door sports car, you see, a rarity for taxis in Abuja. With skepticism, I told him where I was going. He turned out to be a cab driver; we settled on a price and I got in. Reggae music was playing from his car speakers and he was excessively bubbly and chatty. I rolled my eyes internally.
Oh God, he’s one of those people. I don’t need this today, abeg.
Unfortunately, he was so blissfully unfazed by my silence and would not stop talking. Eight or so minutes into the journey, I received a phone call and was thankful for the distraction, albeit a momentary one. After I hung up, the driver turned on the air conditioner.
‘Make I on A.C for you,’ he said. ‘E be like say your body dey hot…’
I wasn’t really sure what gave that away and honestly thought he was being cheeky; nevertheless, I smiled and replied, ‘Oga, thank you oh. Thank you very much.’
Lucky Dube began singing to us about how nobody can stop reggae and we were both silent for a while, then the driver said, ‘Sister, e be like say plenty things dey for inside your head.‘
I shook my head with a wry smile as if to say ‘You have no idea.’ I was having a bad day of epic proportions.
‘Ehn-hehn! I been just dey watch you since you enter my moto and I don see say you no too dey OK.’
After being quiet for a bit he asked me, ‘Sister, you know who dey responsible for our happiness?’
I looked at him blankly for a bit and said, ‘God?’
‘Na we,’ he replied. ‘Na we get our own happiness for our own hand. Nobody suppose get power to make you feel bad. You go get people for life wey no go like you, wey no want your happiness and if you just enter inside yourself like this, they go just dey for one corner dey happy. Anytime person just vex you, just find that thing wey go make you happy, do am. As you see me, anytime my blood dey hot and I just dey para, I go just on my music. I like music well well, most especially reggae. I go just play my reggae, dey sing, dey dance, small time…my vex go go.’
I was in awe—the man didn’t know me prior to that moment, yet he said exactly what I needed to hear. And honestly, I was also terribly ashamed. This man, whose talkativeness I had snubbed, taught me a very profound lesson on that hot Tuesday afternoon, and that is that we are responsible for own happiness. Not our parents. Not our spouses. Not our bosses. Us. Na we get our happiness for our own hand.
HAPPINESS AS AN ACTIVITY VS A STATE OF MIND
Aristotle defined happiness as ‘a state of activity’ and not necessarily a state of mind. I actually believe happiness is both—it’s the things we do and it is also our conscious choice to be happy. We can decide to be happy. We can decide to look on the bright side. We can decide to count our blessings and adopt an attitude of gratitude. We may not have all we want, but we can be thankful for what we do have. While we can involve ourselves in doing typical ‘happy’ things, we can never be completely happy if we choose to consistently wallow in self-pity and think of all the things that are wrong with our lives. We can never be fully happy if our minds and hearts are full of pessimism and negativity. So, yes, happiness is a state of mind as much as the things we do. When you do engage in any activity that makes you happy, the act itself might not necessarily deal with the root of your unhappiness; but it may make you feel better…lighter and you’re more able to deal with the source of your discontent with more clarity of mind.
Later that night, alone with my thoughts, I seriously asked myself the million dollar question, ‘What makes me happy?’ I listed the obvious things that would make (almost) anyone happy like family, friends, reaching a goal…bank credit alert. Ah…having money in my account is always a joy. Please don’t judge me, I’m Igbo. There are also other seemingly little things which make me happy, like the scent of babies and a warm, genuine hug (from someone who smells nice, please). New things make me so happy. I know, I know; our happiness shouldn’t be based on material possessions and all, but I really love new items—new clothes, new gadgets, new anything…You may say I’m shallow but really, show me one woman, with feet, who doesn’t like new shoes…seriously I’m waiting. No…seriously…I’m waiting.
Having given my opinion that happiness is the state of our minds as well as activities we engage in, here are some things I do when I don’t feel so great:
(Note: This list is by no means exhaustive)
* First of all, if I can leave the environment where I’m currently upset, I do.
* I pray.
* I watch the one thousand and one videos I have of my niece on my phone.
* I read. Then read. Then read some more (have I made it obvious enough that I love reading? Ha!). I read mostly fiction.
* I dance. Preferably to loud music in the comfort of my bedroom, with the door locked of course. We can’t be having anybody catching me mid-attempted-twerk! No, no, no. That wouldn’t do.
* I just listen to music, no dancing. I have different playlists depending on my mood.
* Omo, I sleep!
* There are Instagram accounts I follow that no matter how upset I am, within seconds of visiting, I’m put in a better mood. If I’m not in public, I will be rolling on the floor, laughing. I only do this when I have money, though. Watching videos drains data quickly, mbok. And data costs money, mehn. I’ll give a list of these Instagram accounts in a separate post I’ll be publishing soon.
* I watch videos on YouTube. My favourite categories are natural hair videos, DIY projects, cooking tutorials and make-up (I love, love, loooove Jackie Aina. She always gets me laughing like a banshee with her ‘roast’ videos). As above, I only do this when I’m ‘financially gallant’.
* I create stories in my head. In the stories, some days I’m the ‘bad guy killer’. Sometimes, I’m a Nobel Prize winner. Sometimes, I’m the businesswoman running her own successful business empire. I’ve also been a badass biker chick. Try it one day. This lifts my mood immensely. Imagine you’re that person you’ve always (even secretly) wanted to be. Knock yourself out.
* I try to spend quality time with my family and friends or just talk to them on the phone. I really, really like
gossip gist. A lot. Haha.
* I watch a lighthearted movie. Chick flicks make me feel warm and fuzzy.
* If I have the energy (and ingredients, of course) I cook something ‘exotic’; or I just make puff puff. You guys have no idea how much joy puff puff gives me. *sigh*
* I cry. No, seriously, I cry. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s like I’m releasing bad juju.
SO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
Dancing? Writing? Gardening? Painting? Playing basketball? Hiking? Taking long walks? Miming a song in front of a mirror, pretending to be Tasha Cobbs? (No, I’ve never, ever done that before *clears throat*). The options are numerous. Find out what makes you happy and engage in it as much as possible. Whatever you do to make yourself happy, though, make sure it’s healthy (in every way—physically, mentally, emotionally and even financially). Also, it shouldn’t leave you feeling guilty afterwards.
So, no—no drugs and certainly no shopping even when your bank account is looking like a child suffering from kwashiorkor.
No b**ching about that babe who dresses badder than you. You’ll only feel good temporarily, I promise you.
Oh, and please, please, don’t call that ex! Yes, that one.
If possible, do something that will give you an opportunity to improve yourself. Better still, let it be something selfless, something that puts a smile on someone else’s face. I truly believe there’s joy in seeing a person happy because of something you did for them.
To me, happiness also comes from living a simple, uncomplicated life. Trying to be something or someone you were never meant to be can never make you feel good.
Being nice can’t hurt. No, wait…actually it can…but be nice anyway.
The choice to be happy is all up to you. It’s for you. We don’t always get the things we hope for. Choose happiness, anyway. Try not to focus on the things missing in your life and on tying your happiness to the things you desire, because they may not be yours immediately. And are you going to put your happiness on hold till you get the things you want? Do you know what you’re saying in essence?
I won’t be happy until I have a car.
I won’t be happy until I get married.
I won’t be happy until I graduate.
I won’t be happy until I become pregnant.
I won’t be happy until I get a promotion.
I won’t be happy until I move out of this neighbourhood.
Does that make sense? What if you have to wait 2 months for the things you want? 6 months? A year? What if you have to wait 10 years? The horrooorrrrr!! Are you going to be stuck in morosity while you wait? What if your desires never even come to be? What then? Will you be sad forever? It’s best to focus on getting your happiness from the things immediately available to you and in spite of your current situation (not saying you shouldn’t dream or have desires; I’m just saying you can be happy while you wait for the things you want).
We need to also realise that the things that make us happy are likely to change. For instance, if living in a fast-paced, lively city like Lagos made you happy, and you suddenly had to move to a more rural area in Northern Nigeria, it doesn’t mean you can’t find happiness in your new location. Another example—last year, while it was shown on TV, The Voice Nigeria was my absolute boo! I never missed any episode. I did not JOKE with that show, guys! Imagine if I had decided that was the only thing that would make me happy. What would I have been doing with myself since it ended? Do you get my drift? Be willing and prepared to give allowance for different things to make you happy. If one thing that gives you pleasure isn’t available, surely there must be something else that you have access to which would serve the same purpose, no?
As much as you can, surround yourself with positivity and happy people. Happiness can be contagious. And on attaching your happiness to a person—relying on someone to make you happy, most times, ends up being a disaster. It’s a bit unfair to make another human responsible for your happiness. It’s unfair to you, because humans are fickle. It’s more unfair to the person, because it’s selfish of you (people also have things they are dealing with) and it’s too much of a burden to put on anyone. Nobody needs that kind of responsibility. Besides, that amount of power can also be dangerous in the wrong hands. Create your happiness. Na you get your happiness for your own hand. And it’s always a beautiful thing when that happiness comes from within.
Side-note: Please I’m accepting sponsors so that the following can become my sources of happiness—perfume indulgence, weekly spa treatments and travels every time I get annoyed (I mean, wouldn’t it be on point to say ‘I’m travelling to Barbados tomorrow to unwind. One miscreant bashed my car.’ Ah! Levels!).
I ask again—what makes you happy? It might be something unusual and maybe even awkward, but share it anyway. Don’t worry, I won’t laugh. As I already mentioned, I really, reeeaally love gist!