day 452. my happy place.

“The business of life is the acquisition of memories.”

I no longer recall where I had gathered this quote from, but it came to me at a time when I was on the fence about making some “risky” and “brave” decisions, as a friend later called them, and this belief in the importance of acquiring memories has guided me towards making these choices. There were two of us…well, let’s call it…piecing together this puzzle, and we both valued adventures and memories far more than the emotional turmoils that we knew were eventually inevitable. So we set out into the woods, we walked to one end of the earth, we climbed some mountains and we summited some peaks; we ran, we drove, we biked, and we took trains, boats, planes… all these is to say — together, we made quite an array of incredible memories. And now, by choice and by circumstance, we’re done placing the pieces; for better or for worse, leaving the puzzle in whatever state it might be…

“Now go to your happy place…” I heard this shortly after I was instructed to close my eyes. No, this was not a yoga class, nor a meditation circle; this, was a workshop on social justice and museum practices. I did not walk into work thinking “I’ll be challenged to find my happy place today”, and yet there I was, sitting in business attire being asked to take a “me” moment and answer a question that has now become seemingly so cliché and so overused. I never took that question seriously, and it never took me any effort to just randomly pick a place – often an idealized vacation spot – and briefly visit it by envisioning enticing photographs I had just mentally constructed…

unnamedI kept my eyes closed, somewhat reluctantly; we were also asked to take deep breaths, “of course we would…” I caught the cynical self thinking. But before the cynicism could fill my mind with make-belief sceneries, I found an impression floating through my head, along with it a sensation… It felt shockingly real, and I decided to let it ride for just a few seconds longer… Then this landscape emerged before my closed eyes, expanded, and stayed – it was as if an overall feeling had settled in before I could focus my vision and identify just where exactly I had arrived at… It didn’t take long, I remembered it, I recognized it; a mix of delight and disbelief rushed from before my eyes straight into my stomach, not punching me in the gut, but more like tickling it — I was standing on this mountain ridge overlooking the vast terrain that surrounded me; and under such bright sunlight, all the snow patches and alpine lakes just wouldn’t stop glistening.

This was in Norway, this was one of the most unforgettable stretches from that week-long traverse we had last done together. This ridge was right about halfway through the journey, before we grew tired and later exhausted. This was early in the afternoon, when hours of hiking from the morning with all that constant elevation gain had finally paid off, and lead us to this spot at which we were getting the most open view yet, of rolling mountain ridges stretched-out to beyond what the eyes can see… it was exciting, but also daunting. I had never felt vastness like this before; maybe it’s because we were the only two people on the trail for miles to see, or that knowing how much distance we had traveled, I was reminded of just how much more was yet to be covered. It was beautiful, it was boundless, it…evidently made me happy.

The delight that rushed to my stomach came from realizing that I, for the first time, actually “went” to a happy place; that I visited one, rather than imagined one. Along with it though, also came disbelief, as I recognized that it was a place I had ventured to together with him, and all this time I’ve been worried about whether I was going to be able to look back at those memories we’ve made together with joy unburdened by emotions. I was pleasantly surprised, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the happy place that I had unconsciously arrived at…

A recent article in the Huffington Post referred to studies done by the psychology department at Yale, which suggested that human experiences are amplified, or intensified, when shared with someone; it could be as simple as tasting a piece of chocolate, let alone a journey, an adventure… I’m glad that I had him to share those experiences with, and that no matter what that puzzle looks like as we leave it today, I’ll always find a smile waiting to escape from the corners of my mouth — because I discovered my happy place that day, and I liked it.

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