“At that moment, everything was perfect. And for the first time in a long time, I could imagine a future where I was happy.”

Given how often I write about happiness, it wouldn’t be surprising for one to assume that I’ve mastered the process of acquiring it. Be patient, I would write, and await its arrival with quiet optimism. My mantra may roll smoothly on my tongue, but it’s so very unpalatable in practice. While I stay firm to my belief that happiness is an autonomous entity, I’ll also have to admit that it’s a cruelly unpredictable one. Its visits are few and far between, and each is coated, rather pitifully, with a thin glaze of brevity. And while the magnitude of happiness isn’t strictly quantifiable – its presence can definitely be discerned. Happiness soothes us, like a spoonful of warm honey on a rainy day or a dram of whisky on a breezy summer’s night.

The thing is, happiness hasn’t been visiting me all that often. Its presence, or rather the lack thereof, is sorely felt. I like to think that happiness takes up actual space in our chests, in the form of a little red balloon. You see, all is well when this sac of joy is inflated, but when it isn’t, it leaves in its place a cavity. Have you ever screamed whilst in an empty cave? If you have, you’d know exactly how lonely it must be for our hearts’ only companion to be the echoes of their own sombre throbbing. Emptiness is terrifying – and sadly, its been a constant in my everyday life. I’ve been trying my utmost best to fill the void within me, but its been a largely unfruitful pursuit.

I’ve tried filling my balloon with fulfillment from friendships, and contentment from hobbies. Wild with desperation for its inflation, I poured all I could into it, but I didn’t seem to be making any progress. Then it struck me – it wasn’t a lack of input that prevented me from filling up my balloon – it was the inability to keep it in. So distracted with trying to find different sources of “enlargement”, I forgot the only thing that was more important – making sure that my balloon wasn’t leaking. Sure enough, it was riddled with holes. Insecurity, jealousy, vanity – critters like these, they were the culprits. I wasted no time in carrying out a de-infestation, and it was exceedingly successful.

In all honesty, I was nonplussed at how easy it was to rid myself of distasteful emotions, and I was glad that I was swift to purge them. Our minds, despite their emotional irrationality, tend to offer little resistance when it comes to the release of waste material. After all, the positive aspects of life can only count for so much when they’re tied down by copious amounts of negativity. If there’s something I’ve learnt, it’s that despite my earlier claims, there’s more to happiness than waiting around. Happiness is about attaining a balance, and it’s only achieved by a constant adjustment of one’s internal conflicts. There’s no perfect equilibrium, but there exists a margin of error known as contentment. So the real message, my dear reader, is to be content, for as long as you are pursuing happiness, you don’t have it.