I saw an Oprah rerun the other day about happiness. I was all over that baby. It told me lots of interesting things. For instance, 75,000 dollars is the household cap on money happiness apparently. Good to know. And children don’t make you happier . . . until they give you grandchildren. I disagree with that one WHOLE-heartedly. (Yet, man, do I get it.)
But I think the most interesting thing might have been that things only make you happy for about nine months while experiences make you happier much, much longer.
I have a couple things – like my beautiful table – that still make me happy every time I see them, much longer than nine months after their purchase. But I’m thinking the theory is basically correct. And I’m pretty sure those things have experiences tied to them that make the difference. So here’s a list of experiences that convince me happiness definitely lasts longer with those than with things.
New York – You can read all about the first time I finally stepped foot in this city of dreams in this post, And Then I Was There. It’s been ten months, and I still get absolutely giddy when I close my eyes and look back. I walked the sidewalks, I stood on the observation decks, I went from Agent Holly to my coworkers on two different subways and a few blocks of walking by myself. I WAS THERE. I was so there. And I’ll never forget it. And I desperately want to go back. But if I never do, I’ll still always have the first time.
Disney World – Two days after my last radiation treatment the last time I had cancer, my in-laws helped us take a trip with them to Orlando. They suffered through Disney World with us, a place that’s kind of my mecca, and the fireworks show at the end was like the best bookend to cancer EVER. We also spent a lot of time by the ocean (Jake was only 3 weeks old – he and I are in the picture above), and the ocean is one of my favorite places, one of the best places on earth to realize, “Oh yeah. Life is good.”
Having babies – Yeah, I get it that they don’t actually up the happiness ante in life. They add to the worry pile for sure and they cost more than I’ll ever actually spend on them (thank God for grandparents). But, yeah, those were happy days when I brought beings into the world. And those beings still make me glad.
Disney World – Marrying Michael was the biggest relief of my life, the relaxing of years and years and years of wanting him and stressing about him and wishing for him and not knowing if we’d ever get together that way. It was the best decision in the world to take off for a whole week all by ourselves in a place where we wouldn’t know a soul and where reality just can’t find a way in. That place happened to be Disney World, too.
Colombia – I’d rarely wanted to go anywhere before I joined a bible college trip to Ibague, Colombia. It was beautiful and life-changing.
Cheerleading – I’ll have to write more about this another time. I only did it one year, but it was a great experience. And I’m still happy I did it.
Head Elf – My first solo on a stage was sixth grade when I got the part of Head Elf in the elementary Christmas musical. I’m pretty sure that’s when I got the bug. They don’t really do plays like that in elementary schools anymore – not the ones I know of anyway. It had to have been crazy hard work for the adults involved, and I feel so grateful that they did it. (Thank you, Mrs. P!)
The yellow bean bag – When I was sick in fifth and sixth grade, Mom would take me to Father Mike’s house, across the street from Dad’s office. Father Mike let me crash on his bean bag (I’m not positive it was yellow) and watch movies while he worked. Then for lunch he’d let me eat tuna straight from the can. This experience led to a monstrous love for movies, for eating food the way you want to, and for hideaways when the world gets to be too much. Not to mention, a lifelong friendship with the best priest in the world.
This list is full of holes. I was going to throw in the tiny experiences that changed my life too – the little moments with people that I’ll never forget, the moments alone in the quiet when all my questions would settle into an inexplicable calm. But I think this proves the point. The clothes I bought around the time of these experiences don’t make me all that happy today. The last purse I bought doesn’t even do it for me anymore. But experiences, yeah, they change us. And they last.