CAIRO - 25 December 2020: Among others impressed with the special digits of the year 2020, I planned it to be the year of relaunch where I take a grip and finally go turn all my dreams into realities.
So in hopes of putting an end to years of confusion, I decided to take matters into my hands to find what everyone is looking for: happiness.
I started a personal initiative with the hashtag “rabab_and_ the_ quest_ for_ happiness”, and I planned on writing everything that made me happy from day 1 to day 366 in the leap year of 2020.
But then a pandemic broke out.
How ironic it is to try to control things only to understand the hard way you are of little to no significance regarding what life throws at you. And how comforting it is to figure you are of all significance regarding how you react to what life throws at you.
Being obliged to drop the hustle that kept me busy thinking I’m leading the life of my dreams, I found myself facing feelings I deliberately numbed to not face any of them, feelings such as love, fear, worry, uncertainty, despair and confusion.
But just like everything in our universe, opposites coincide. It’s because of darkness, we appreciate light, and because of sadness, we seek happiness and because of death, we cherish life. So what more should it take than a pandemic to awaken our deepest desire for living and understanding the purpose of our existence.
Despite being confined, my quest for happiness took me to worlds I did not know existed. These closed-gated worlds were all inside of me; apparently, I made sure their keys were hidden in a place I of all people couldn’t find.
It was easier that way.
But running away was not an option this time, there was literally nowhere for me to go except where I already was and face what I was most afraid of, like going through the battle of witnessing my most loved and cherished ones defeating covid-19.
Rule 17: “Happiness is yielding. Yield and try to believe it’s for the best even when your shaky faith tells you otherwise..”
Another thing I learned is that it only through weakness we find the core of our strength, because what is courage if you are not afraid. It’s through heartbreak we learn how to gather the broken pieces by ourselves and mold them back with ultimate care into a new form. Yes it might take years -in my case a decade – for this fragile form to be able to come to life again, but it’s only through this destined journey that one finds who they truly are and what universes they are encompassing within them.
Rule 12: “Happiness is figuring out and accepting your Achilles’ heel.”
Questioning things has also helped me find a trace of ever-elusive happiness.
Exploring a new genre of music, I came across an Iranian song, through which I learned the tragic love story of Farhad and Shirin and I came to the conclusion that love is in essence an evil emotion just like greed and vanity. Yes, good could come out of them like ambition, self-love and temporary joy, but so could pain and heartbreak.
I wrote in the post that this does not reflect my point of view. But I lied.
I only discovered I’m lying when my good friend Hussam refuted this theory and discussed with me the other kind reality of love.
I realized how I’ve been deluding myself all those years, saying all is forgiven. So I sat myself down, had the talk and got it over with. This time for real.
Rule 18: “happiness is forgiving and healing. Believing in the faint voice within saying ‘I’d rather try again than be a coward.’”
I also learned through the quest that happiness sometimes is creatable and a choice. Choosing to do what makes you happy even when it’s not easy is one way to achieve this. Committing yourself to be the best possible version of yourself is another.
Rule 23: “Happiness is the mastery of what you can control.”
What I discovered through the confinement is that little things are really the greatest of things, they have the power to open up new worlds for us, just like coffee, music and reading.
Rule 10, 15, 16, 19: “Happiness is coffee, literature, poetry, exploring new realms of music and singing out loud under the mask”.
The most interesting part about this quest game is that it made me pay attention to the surrounding details and how I react to them and thus enhancing my self-awareness, and modestly self love.
So I found out new realities about myself, such as that I love writing and that I’m capable of seeing things others do not.
It took me a while of self-doubt before I realize it’s a superpower.
Rule 8: “Happiness is having eyes that are full of wonder.”
Rule 25: “Happiness is sticking to whom you believe you are even when people do not understand.”
Another thing I discovered is that having a close circle of healthy relationships and being loved for who you are is priceless. It takes two for it to work. These relations feel like a warm blanket wrapping you in a cold night.
Rule 1: “Happiness is having a pure-hearted friend who believes in you even when you don’t.”
Once again, I learned the hard way that memories do count and that’s why we should be really careful about our present because in a moment it becomes our past and soon shapes our future.
I lost my most precious family photos and it did make me sad because it reminded me of how feeble I am that I couldn’t care all of these beautiful happy memories in my heart forever because I’m only human and am forgetful.
But I found solace in the idea that these memories would make the universe a little happy place for a fraction of a second as I set them free one by one in the void because the people in them have once walked this earth and filled it with life, laughter and love.
Rule 14: “Happiness is well-lived memories”.
But I guess the greatest find in 2020 was that efforts do pay off. Acknowledging that you are lost takes courage, venturing to find your path takes strength and searching for your lost faith and for answers to painful questions through the years require a warrior with a sound heart, a heart that knows we might keep losing battles but not hope.
Just when I was not expecting it, my efforts paid off, and it felt like a moment of awakening.
Rule 13: “Happiness is being sought by what you seek when you least expect it.”
Rule 24: “Happiness is keeping track of how far you wandered in the right direction.”
So I guess just like the shepherd in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, who had to travel half way across the world in a tedious journey to find out the treasure was just under the tree in his home, it took me a year in a pandemic to discover that happiness starts from within, it’s only through delving deep in one’s unlimited self, that we can understand its true meaning.
Rule 29: “Happiness is the journey to know thyself. Happiness is arriving.”