Random Dance Parties and the Pursuit of Happiness

“Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.”
— H. Jackson Brown Jr.

I wasn’t planning on posting a blog this morning. But at six a.m., I read this Atlantic piece about how it’s not purchasing things that makes us happy, but rather shopping for them. I thought it made a few compelling arguments and it’s worth the read. I don’t have strong opinions on “diminishing utility” — talk to my accountant friends — but I can see the case.
But it got me thinking about what makes me happy, and why this year has been so much happier for me than years past. One big component of that is community, having the sense that I belong amongst a group of people who care about me. Another is having a sense of purpose (though perhaps not vocationally), knowing that I can make a contribution to other people’s lives that is valued and sometimes even cherished. And let us never underestimate the power of an Oreo McFlurry.
If I’m really honest, though, I think the biggest component relates to that Atlantic article. I am finding more and more things to anticipate. I looked at my calendar for the coming weeks, and I have so many things coming up that I am enthusiastically looking forward to. Beer tonight with one of the men from my church. A scalp massage (and complimentary hair cut) from my stylist tomorrow. A dinner party on Saturday. Beer, Sex, & Theology on Sunday. Meeting Thomas Keller next week. And all that’s just the start of it. Even that introvert voice in my head is screaming, “Let’s do this!”
And then I get to my bus stop. I was early because I’m working longer hours this week, so I saw a woman I’ve never seen before. She’s a young professional, probably edging into her late twenties. She was wearing a winter coat. In any other context I would assume she’s shy and a little mousy. But today, at that bus stop, with her headphones in, she was dancing to her tunes as though she were in the middle of a crowded club, waving at cars driving by, a consistent little smile on her face.

This wasn't her.

This wasn’t her.

So maybe anticipation isn’t the whole story, either. Maybe happiness lies in being able to make your own dance parties at a moment’s notice.


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