Recently, I spent some time in my hometown. I had finished performing in two plays at a festival and I desperately needed to get away from Pretoria. I love this city so much, but every now and then I need to escape for a little while.
During my visit, a former Sunday school teacher of mine passed away. I decided to go to the funeral and inevitably I ran into a lot of people I use to know. They all asked the same question:
“Are you happy?”
Being who I am, I couldn’t find a simple answer to this question. Of course I said “Yes!”, but in my mind I was saying much more.
Am I happy? I mean, I guess…
My favourite film of all time is The Hours, and in one scene, Clarissa looks back at a moment in her life when she was really happy:
“I remember one morning getting up at dawn. There was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling. And I… I remember thinking to myself: So this is the beginning of happiness, this is where it starts. And of course there will always be more… It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment, right then.”
Now, more death.
I often take care of people’s pets, and last December I stayed in a family’s home while they were on vacation. During this time, I bonded quite a bit with their elderly cat, Thumbelina. A few days ago I heard that she passed on. I have a soft spot for animals, especially cats, so it made me really sad. I had taken a lot of pictures with her, so I went back on my phone to look for them.
I found those pictures, but I also found other images that I had almost forgotten about. They were pictures of myself, but… not me. Not the person I am today, at least.
I took these pictures in January and February. The version I saw of myself looked so… blissful. I’m not really one for smiling in pictures, but I had this silly smile on my face and my eyes… shone.
Of course, these pictures were taken when I had fallen in love. And yes, it was a feeling of pure bliss. I was truly floating.
Looking at these pictures, a heavy thought crossed my mind.
What if that had been my moment? It’s over now.
I’ve always felt sorry for people who talk about “the best days of their lives”. It seems like such a sad notion; the idea that your life has reached its peak, and you know that nothing can top that.
But what if I’ve reached my peak? I know it seems silly. I’m in my mid 20’s. My career as a performing artist seems to finally be heading in the right direction. The play I wrote did well at its opening and is taking on a life of its own. I feel like I’m finally becoming confident as an actor and writer. There are a lot of exciting possibilities waiting for me.
But I’m not in love.
When we were together, I started to think that maybe I could let go of theatre, because it was no longer my only source of joy. I finally understood how people could be working at mundane jobs if they had someone to come home to. I realized that all of the critical acclaim and attention wasn’t all that exciting. Once you’ve seen the beauty of simplicity – holding hands, talking, laughing – you realize that all those big things you chased were just a waste of energy.
I lost him.
I almost feel embarrassed to still be torn up over a relationship that ended nine months ago. There are times when I think that I’ve moved on, but the next day I find myself back where I started.
I’m not saying that I’ll never be happy again. In fact, I’ve had many happy moments since then. But they pale in comparison.
It’s not even that I want him back. I know that even if that were to happen (it won’t) that things won’t be the way they use to be. Too much damage has been done.
Love fucks you up. It’s like P!nk says in her song: “It’s all your fault. You called me beautiful.”
So now I wonder what to make of this life that might have passed its peak.
“This is the way you left me. I’m not pretending. No hope. No love. No glory. No happy ending. This is the way that we love, like it’s forever. Then live the rest of our life, but not together.” ~ Mika