As you may or may not know, due to the accumulated pressure of exams, music and even more exams, I have had to stop doing ballet. I have been dancing since I was 3, and today I had my last ballet lesson which was understandably emotional. I almost welled up at the final reverence, but as I swaggered down the church hall corridor for the last time as a ballet student with the well-timed ‘Back in Black’ by ACDC playing in my ears, I was hit by a quick succession of epiphanies about general happiness in life (what is the collective pronoun for epiphanies? A musing of epiphanies? A pondering of epiphanies?) Anyway, as someone with only 15 years or so behind her, I concede that I have little experience compared to others, as I will touch upon later, but this is just a list of guidelines that I feel help a person to be content with their lives. Many of them share some similarities
No.1: Always leap at the chance of a new experience.
The more you do, the more interesting you become, I find. But don’t just go places because you feel you have to, if you fling yourself into your activities, they are more likely to provide even more enjoyment.
Yesterday, I had my last ever (thank goodness) sports day. I am a musician. Typically, musicians and sports do not go together. Yet in a reckless attitude of optimism, I put myself down for the 1500 meters run. You will not be surprised to find out that I did not win this race. I didn’t come last, but I didn’t win. But I can’t tell you, dear reader, how many people have come up to me today and said, “Well run yesterday, Eliza.” I hold a large amount of contempt for sport, and my legs are aching tremendously even a day after, but I still feel proud of what I did, because I tried.
This guideline should be followed in moderation though, as I learned the hard way in the first term of this year. You can do too much, but from the arguably stupid number of co-curricular activities that I took part in this year, I gained memories that I will always treasure, experiences that I will never forget, and friends that screamed my way as I puffed towards the finish line of the 1500 meter race yesterday.
No.2: Make friends of your fears and mistakes.
This follows on from rule number 1. One of the main reasons that opportunities are missed is the fear of possible rejection or failure. And so I advise you to make a friend of fear, but as that one friend who can be great fun but you only like to talk to occasionally. Fear can be a superpower, it heightens your senses, keeps you on your toes. It is good to be nervous before a performance of some kind because these nerves prevent you from getting complacent. But you must never let fear stop you from reaching the full extent of your capabilities.
I play the clarinet to a relatively high standard, but this year that standard has slipped. This is because I did not follow guideline 2. Due to a disappointing outcome from an audition that I had previously thought had gone very well, I became scared of my clarinet, something I have been playing for 9 years. I felt inadequate and so I tanked in my Grade 8 exam through lack of practice.
Lately, I have been slowly getting past this fear and hope to do my diploma in Year 12, but it is scary how scary scariness can be. Just one bad experience like being cat-called once shouldn’t stop you from ever going out again, one time being backed off a horse should not make you scared of ever riding again. It is better to accept your fears and learn from your mistakes, which comes from following guideline 1 (I told you they would share similarities).
No.3: Confidence can get you a long way, so have it in abundance
Now don’t get me wrong, I know how annoying a showoff can be. I am one. But whether you have confidence about your brain, your personality, your speech, your body, or just how straight you can draw a line without a ruler, having confidence is essential for a happy life. I refer to my now former ballet teacher who said that when we danced we should be “modest with a hint of rapture.” We should always be “modest with a hint of rapture,” I feel. Of course no one will ever achieve perfection, and improvements are key to growth as a human being, but the ability to say ‘“That’s my favourite thing about me,” with heartiness and honesty is a very important quality for a happy life, I believe.
Humility is, of course, important, and I would suggest that, in a good balance with self-esteem create a wonderful personality but, to quote Beyonce from her song ‘Ego’, “Some call it arrogance, I call it confidence.” Well said, madam. Well said.
No.4: Friends are like milk. You can add things to them, use them to comfort you or make other beautiful things with them, but you should never neglect them, or you’ll end up with a bad taste in your mouth .
I’m not entirely sure how well that analogy works. My point is, no matter how many experiences you have, how much confidence you have or how well you deal with fear, these are all just metaphorical puzzle pieces that make up the beautiful picture that is your possible happiness. Without the corner pieces, here representing the friends, we can see the picture on the puzzle box but the corners aren’t filled in. Humans are social animals, we rely on bonding and relationships to survive. The longest running (and arguably one of the best) sitcoms is Friends. Queen even wrote a song about friendships.
The point is, I have changed my friendship groups over the past few years at Alleyn’s School. I have been good friends with some people who I don’t even speak to now, and I have some friends whom I barely knew at the start of school. But at the centre of these ever-changing friendship groups, a small bunch of lovely boys and girls have remained loyal to me and I to them. I count those as my friends, and without them I am incomplete.
So those are my four guidelines to happiness. I have no doubt that they will change as I follow guideline 1 and become more experienced but this is how I see happiness is achievable for now.
Let me know what you think!