10. “He just wanted to join”

When I was about ten, my parents went to a conference. At said conference, there were organized kids activities and such. There was one boy and we were sitting in a circle playing some dumb game with a group leader and this boy came up. The group leader said the group was full, and after he left, kids in the circle started talking about how he seemed weird, including the leader! As a ten year old, I saw nothing weird about the kid; he just wanted to join us. It made me feel uneasy, but I didn’t speak up because I was painfully, painfully shy.

Later, on the last day, I was playing “spud” with a girl I had miraculously made friends with (I think she approached me), the kid came up to us and say, “oh, I’ve played that game!” Hovered a minute, and left. I waited for my friend to ask him to join us. She didn’t. And I didn’t say anything.

And this has stuck with me basically forever. How this kid, who seemed nice and friendly, wasn’t included, for seeming “weird” – it was wrong.

I used to fantasize that I had had the courage to ask him to play with us, and then we became best friends. And looking back it still makes me sad.

11. Hot Chocolate

When my cousin and I were kids, we were swimming in the pool at this hotel that had famously great hot chocolate. We decided we wanted more hot chocolate, but couldn’t find our parents anywhere.

We went up to a random couple & demanded hot chocolate. They actually bought it for us and we hung out with them until our parents found us. By then, we’ve finished our hot chocolates & all evidence had been cleared. We decided not to tell our parents because we knew they’d be mad, especially since we tried asking for more hot chocolate, and they told us we couldn’t have anymore since they were so overpriced (I believe they were $6-8ish/cup..can’t really remember). The couple was nice enough not to mention it, so they never got paid back.

Looking back, I think they were probably on their honeymoon since they were really gushy around each other. I’m sure they weren’t planning to spend half a day babysitting 2 annoying 5-6 year old kids.

To the couple whose honeymoon I ruined, I’m so sorry. I hope you’re still together and happy!

12. “You can choose to be happy with anything at anytime”

Every week or so I keep thinking back on this random moment in my life and it makes me realize that sometimes all I need to feel complete is to break my self apart. A few months ago I was in South Africa visiting my sister. She lives in Cape Town, and had to work for a week. It was the perfect time to get out of the city and try and find a new place to explore on a solo adventure. One of the lesser known countries in the world is Swaziland, which is the smallest country in Africa and neighbors South Africa. I booked a flight to Johannesburg, and rented a car to make the drive out to Swaziland.

My destination was Mkhaya game reserve, one of the more interesting reserves that offered a three day safari that I was very interested in. I didn’t really have a time period of when I needed to be there, as I had a week to do anything I wanted to. The drive out was casual, to say the least.

The thing about Swaziland is that it doesn’t have physical addresses. It made my predicament a little harder to maneuver because as always, I opted to go about the road trip without a GPS. I got lost for roughly a day after crossing the Swaziland border, and what a day it was.

I was driving through this rural town that didn’t make it any different than the towns prior to it. It was small in size, lacked building or structures that we are used to seeing in America, and for the most part life just seemed to move at a completely different pace. I came across this bus stand and this old man caught my eye. He was standing there alone, in this bus stand that was a mile from any discearnable location in either direction. He had nothing to entertain him, and from my observations while driving, I already knew that the bus wouldn’t pass him for at least a little while. But he didn’t seem to mind any of it, and just stood there smiling and looking around.

I drove probably 5-10 minutes past him, and just couldn’t get him out of my mind.

Like most people, sustained silences seem to bother me because of the way I grew up and how society is. I am constantly filling those gaps with phone breaks, sometimes surfing sites that offer me nothing, and sometimes re-reading the same subject written in a different way. It was hard for me to understand how this man could be living here in the middle of nowhere, and still be so happy and content in life.

I couldn’t get the man out of my mind, and having no where to be at any specific time, I turned my car around. I got back to the bus stop, and sure enough he was still standing there. I pulled over and cautiously approached him, not knowing how he would react to this stranger obviously coming towards him for a specific purpose or goal. He broke out of whatever deep thought he was in and smiled at me as I greeted him. A lot of people in Swaziland speak english, and to my luck, this man had a good grasp of the language as well. I didn’t really know what it was that I wanted to talk to him about, only knew that I did. We talked about life. He told me that he lives 15 minutes away on his son’s farm, and helps him as much as he can. He was here to catch a public bus to the city to buy some supplies and whatnot.

I asked him what he does on a day to day basis. He told me he wakes up early and walks the lands because there was something special about looking out into the landscape when the rising sun hits it in a certain way. He plays with his grandkids, walks the dogs, reads the local newspapers. He walks around and talks to the neighbors, and every other day buses it to the city and sits arounds bars or shops and talks to the people that come to do much the same thing.

His days were never wasted, and he didn’t need the things we need to have happiness in his life. It got me to thinking about what happiness really is. I am the result of everything I’ve ever seen and everyone I’ve ever talked to. I wake up too cranky, work too much, rely on coffee to enjoy talking to people, get too angry at traffic home, and sometimes watch too much tv. I mean, sometimes I’m not even watching tv, rather just staring at it, become lost in it, not even getting anything out of it. I do all of this, and squeezed inside of these moments are bouts of happiness. I look forward to the weekend, timing it, thinking “only a few more days until happiness can begin”. I love my job and what I do, but I would be lying to you if I told you that I didn’t let it get the best of me from time to time, and let it control my mood and emotions.

I asked the man what makes him happy, and he told me something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. He told me, “happiness can not be gotten from things or places. Happiness is a state of being. I can travel to where you live, and be happy because I am seeing something new. But I can also travel to my back yard and be happy for many different reasons. I can be happy that I have a backyard, or I can be happy because the weather is nice there. I can be happy because my backyard gives me a feeling of comfort, or I can be happy because I am still healthy enough to be able walk myself to my backyard. You can choose to be happy with anything at anytime. I mean, you choose to be sad and angry at things, why not simply choose to be happy instead?”

Things don’t make you angry. It’s you who chooses to react to certain things in an angry way. Things don’t bring you happiness, nor does the weekend. It’s you who chooses to be happy with things, and with the weekend. And it’s you who can choose to be happy whenever else as well.

I thanked the man for his time and he hugged me goodbye. I really haven’t stopped thinking about what he told me since. That man did not have much in his life, and he didn’t have the fancy gadgets that we do. There aren’t people and signs constantly telling him how he should live. There wasn’t a written guideline to where he could obtain bliss. But he did have happiness. And now, he has a friend in me as well.

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