Of all things I have ever wanted to be, the one thing I’ve always wanted to be is happy. I want to be happy with where I am. I want to be happy with the person I am and happy with the things I do. Of all things I’ve wanted, I have always wanted to be able to look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and be comfortable with my reflection. I want to like what I see, not regret it. In fact, I don’t want to regret a thing.
There are people who appear happy. There are (of course) the social media posts which give the appearance of happiness. There are people that seem to have their life together. They have their happy family and their happy lives in their happy, beautiful homes with a garage or perhaps even a detached garage—and to all others, the appearance would seem wealthy and fine.
Of all the things I have ever wanted, I think happiness would rank at the top of the list. I just want to be happy.
We all do, right?
I have a box of old photographs taken from before I was born. This box is my personal treasure chest. There are pictures of me as a newborn. There are pictures from my youth and then there is a gap of time, missing, because I was missing in the picture for a while.
There are older photographs of family get-togethers. I see them and I look upon these old photographs with deep sentiment. I see photos of my Grandmother and remember what her hands felt like. I see her and remember being very small and so quiet while she told me bedtime stories. She was so gentle and warm, so regarded and loved.
I see photos of my Grandmother and Grandfather, whom of which, I never met. I never saw my Grandfather in the flesh or heard his voice. I have seen photographs. I have heard stories about him. Only, I never heard the other side of him, which was not the side portrayed in smiling photographs.
I love these pictures. I love how they sealed the moments of time. This way I can hold them and revisit the people I love and the family I never met.
I always wished I could have been to some of these get-togethers. I wish I could have been there because the appearance seems perfect. Everyone was smiling and seemingly happy. Everyone was together. My family was still family. Our country was a different place. People still believed in this thing we call “Hope.”
I never knew what my Grandparent’s relationship was like. I only knew about their appearance. Perhaps it would be better to say I only knew about my perception of their appearance.
The same can be said about the old family photographs that I have which were taken from before I was born. All I see are the smiles. I have no idea about anything behind them or what went on behind the scenes. No one takes pictures of arguments or records the bad things, which is where we are misled to believe everything is so cheerful and happy in other people’s lives.
We are easily swayed by appearance. We are easily tricked by what we see. In fact, the deception of our perception can sometimes mislead us in believing happiness is easy for other people.
But what is happiness other than the quality or state of being happy. Happy, as in delighted, as in fortunate, or lucky. The dilemma here is life is not always delightful. Life is filled with unfortunate things and of all things, life is not always lucky
I am writing to you about the heart. As we all know the heart is our source. This is what pumps and fuels our system. However, the heart is more than a pump that moves blood through the body. Figuratively speaking, the heart is where love comes from. Figuratively speaking, the heart is where we store emotion and keep our memories. The heart is what’s touched when, like say, I see pictures of The Old Man in my box of treasured photographs. Figuratively speaking, this is where we feelings come from. We feel with our heart and think with our brain. We live and we love, we laugh, and we cry. When we feel good our heart is happy. When we feel bad, our heart breaks. This is a concept for the mind to grasp and break down the navigation of our thinking
I am writing to you about the heart; however, I am not writing to you about the heart in our bodies. No, this heart is very different.
There is another figurative term, as in to have the heart, to have what it takes to continue; to have the drive, the desire, the endurance—to have the tenacity to stand, to have the wherewithal, the stamina, and to have the understanding of purpose. That’s heart.
I was never a good athlete, which was difficult because I grew up in a home of sport fans. I was the son of a football coach. I was the younger brother to a town hero who everyone knew. He was well-known and well-liked. My brother was also in great physical condition. He was strong. I was not. He was athletic. I was not.
Girls loved him. And me, well, girls saw me different from how they saw my brother.
I tried though. I tried sports too but the truth is if you’re not good, nobody wants you on their team. I played baseball when I was a kid. I played a few seasons in peewee football. I played basketball one year. I hated it!
In fact, this was the last time I ever played an organized sport on an organized team.
My team was in first place though. We were undefeated during the season. I mostly rode the bench. I did play a little, but mostly, I received the brutality of my teammates. I was bullied and picked on and left out. I was also from a different religious background which leads to a story I will save for another time.
One night before practice, the coach had enough of the showboating. I mean, we were all young so I’m not sure how much showboating could have gone on at the time.
I just know the coach saw something he didn’t like. He screamed after blowing the whistle. He lined us up.
The coach started to tell us about this thing they call heart. He explained how everyone is all smiles when things are going right.
But what happens when things are not going wrong? What happens when we’re down on points? Where’s your fire then? Where’s your tenacity? Where is the drive to win when winning doesn’t seem like an option?
The coach did not like what he saw. One of the team’s so-called superstars would stick out his tongue when he dribbled the ball. He played very well. Others played well too—especially for their age. We had high scoring games for our division.
Keep in mind; I was the kid the teammates picked on. I was the one they bullied. I was never invited anywhere. I was never in on any of the jokes. To be honest, I hated it. I hated my teammates but only because I wished they liked me.
I wanted to quit but The Old Man told me I wasn’t allowed to. They Old Man instructed, “No matter what they say or do, you have to show up.”
I wanted to quit because I couldn’t play as well. I wanted to quit because I wasn’t liked by the rest of the team.
I was called, “The Jew,” and “The Heeb,” as in short for Hebrew. I was smacked across the face because I didn’t know who the Blessed Virgin Mother was.
Please understand; I was too young to know much about religion. I knew what a mother was. I also knew what a virgin was.
To the best of my knowledge however, and minus the idea of adoption, a virgin cannot be a mother and a mother cannot be a virgin. Needless to say, I endured the bullying. I endured the abuse and the shame.
The Old Man told me, “I don’t care what they say to you or do, no matter what you have to show up to every practice.”
Meanwhile, I couldn’t sink a foul shot to save my life. I had to toss the ball underhand from the foul line; otherwise, I would never reach the rim.
By the way. this was another detail that left me unwanted on the team. The kids from other teams and even parents from the stands would laugh about this.
The Old Man insisted. “I don’t care what happens. You cannot quit the team. You will show up at every practice and be at every game.”
God, I hated The Old Man for this.
When the coach lined us up and started to talk about heart, he blasted the entire team. And then he pointed to me.
He explained, “Look at Kimmel!”(That’s my last name by the way)
“He comes to every practice.”
He said, “Kimmel shows up at every game. You all ride him and he still shows up. You push him around and he still hasn’t quit.”
“None of you would have stayed around if you were treated like him!”
The coached shouted at the team that not one of them showed any heart—except for me. In all honesty, I was uncomfortable because I was unsure this was going to be helpful. I thought they were all going to hate me even more.
I remember when practice was underway, one of the other kids came over and gave me the ball and asked if I wanted to shoot next. I swear I wanted to cry.
This is something that would have never happened, —and I can’t say it happened too often afterwards. But at least it happened. However, the one thing that did happen is I saw what happens when you refuse to let people beat you.
I can’t say that I was happier after this but I can say the team didn’t pick on me as much. I wasn’t invited anyplace, which was fine, but still, at least I was treated a little more fairly.
The truth is if asked, I would have preferred to be one of the better kids on the team. The truth is I wished I was more athletic. I wished I was better. I wished I was better looking, stronger, faster, and more desirable and yes, the list can go on.
No one asks to be less athletic of uncoordinated. No one wants to be picked last or not picked at all. I know that I never asked for it.
For as long as I can recall, I have always been looking to find happiness—and in this pursuit, I found myself looking for something that was misleading. I thought there was happiness in perfection but I am not perfect. I thought I would be happier if I had more money but I lived both with and without money and found that melancholic thinking is still melancholic thinking.
When I introduced this thought to you, I explained that I was writing to you about the heart. This is our source. With regards to happiness; I never thought to look at my source. I never saw that my answers were within me this entire time. I always thought the answer was external.
One day I learned that I have been in pursuit of an inaccurate idea.
I was looking for that rich life. I wanted to be like the “Lucky” people; only, I never once looked at me and saw how truly “Lucky” I am to be who I am.
I was looking to feel like the happy photographs I see on Facebook. I wanted to be happy. I want to be wealthy with a trophy lifestyle.
I tell you we live in a misleading society—especially today in the world of the fake and superficial posts on social media, we live in a society of “Keeping up with the Jones’s”. Look at social media. This is where people literally appear happy and successful ALL THE TIME!!
I eventually realized none of this is real, which is not to say that happiness isn’t real. No, I wholeheartedly believe that happiness is real.
All I am saying is that just like my box of treasured photographs, I cannot allow myself to be tricked or fooled by the deception of my perception of what happiness is.
Sometimes, our situations and circumstances are unkind and unfriendly. Either way, my Old Man was right.
No matter what, I have to suit up every game whether I play or not. I cannot allow anyone or anything to bully or intimidate me.
No matter what is thrown at me or what hurts me, I cannot allow myself to be scared away or give in.
The personal definition of happiness is expansive, which means happiness has a wide range of meaning.
I am not sure if I know what happiness means to anyone else. I only know what this means to me.
I have grown since my days on the basketball team.
I can shoot the ball a little better now.
I am happier now but not because my basketball skills are better. the truth is I improved because I am better.
I have learned that happiness comes with a price. Happiness takes work. Moreover, happiness is not always happy—and to think differently about this will only throw us off. I say this because the moment we are tested or the moment when we feel lost or defeated, we start to question the verity of our happiness.
(Don’t do this to yourself)
To be happy, I had to learn what it means to be truly happy, which is not to say I will never have unhappy times, but regardless to them, I never quit, I always suited up, and I did my best at every shot I took and I took every shot I had that came to me.
Happiness isn’t popularity or wealth or anything external.
No, those are just props.
I had to learn not to be fooled by the deception of my perception and not to be limited by thoughts or feeling because to me, that is happiness. This is freedom; to live, love, and be as I choose. I say that’s happy to me.
You ask what it means to be happy.
I’m not quite sure yet. I’m working on this myself
I just know that it takes a lot of heart.
And like I said, the heart is our source.