hello, are you happy?
by The Dreamer
when i was born, my parents consulted an ancient-looking fortune teller for a name. for a week, i was known as baby #2. meanwhile, the wise man deliberated over my stars and my fortune and the name that would eventually decide my fate. names really do change the winds of your destiny, you know.
my mother said i was a baby who rarely made a fuss, who rarely cried, a stark contrast to the demanding nature of my elder sister. i only ever cried at 9pm every night without fail, where nightmares would shake me awake. what my empty, premature mind could conjure to frighten me, i wasn’t sure. perhaps remnants of my past life? maybe i was a halcyon reincarnated into a human.
a week later, the old man presented my parents with a name. only one. while my sister had two choices, two different paths, there was only one option for me.
钧喜。15kg of happiness.
my path was to be happy. or it could have been interpreted as, my path was to make others happy. alternatively, my name was to alleviate me from the unhappiness that would plague my existence. he did not reveal too much, he kept it cryptic; giving away too much of the secrets of the universe was harmful to himself and to the receiving end as well.
then my father named me jean, funnily enough without ever knowing its connotation.
but nevertheless, jean. God is gracious.
this story faintly but surely surfaced to my mind as my eyes drank in a particular passage from my holiday read, The Secret Letters from the Monk who sold his Ferarri, fingers absentmindedly fondling the corner of the pages.
it had illustrated:
Life itself is a journey after all, and what matters most is not what you are getting, but who you are becoming.
that night, i was seated at the edge of my porch, the resort dog’s head beside my bare feet as we both occasionally looked out at the sea. the soft pitter-patter of the drizzle from above creating a perfect and orchestrated juxtaposition against the crashing of the waves against the rocks. it was too dark to make out the ebb and flow of the sea; all i could see was inky murkiness with a slight mysterious shimmer to it.
at the other end of the horizon, a green light blazed brightly.
immediately i recalled this line from the great gatsby:
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning– So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
to gatsby, the green light was the happiness he yearned for.
i felt a familiar ache in my left chest, as if i was suddenly overwhelmed with sympathy for gatsby’s tragic plight.
i was chasing after happiness that seemed to elude me. i was diverging so far from my path — misguided and lost — and stuck in a rut of dissatisfaction.
the novel in my hand, with the weight of the significant phrase, felt like a thousand tonnes in my palms.
i failed to see that i was pegging my happiness to a certain goal: if i got good grades, then i would be happy. if i got friends that loved me unconditionally, then i would be happy. if i got skinnier, i would be happy.
it was a constant interrogation. what did you want to get? would you be happy after that?
a never-ending cycle of: if i ______, then i would be______.
say i really did achieve that goal, then i was left with emptiness. the goal was reached, there’s nothing beyond except to peg it onto another new goal and exert more energy chasing after it. it was like gatsby after attaining daisy – “his count of enchanted object reduced by one”. when gatsby and daisy finally get together, the dream vanishes. does this mean that his happiness has to stay forever a dream? that it loses its meaning if we actually achieve it—or that, once we achieve it, we find out that it wasn’t so great to begin with?
happiness was a state of being. it shouldn’t be tied down to anything – a goal, a subject, an object. it shouldn’t be dragged down by expectations.
i felt slightly dizzy by that few pregnant moments of self-enlightenment.
i had been doing everything entirely wrong.
j e a n x x