Written by Swati
March 15th, 2023
That which we go in search of will never be found. But that which we choose to find in the world around us, appears more easily. Something I heard from my philosophy professor freshman year that changed my mindset: The opposite of depression is not happiness, it is purpose. As humans we must always be headed in a direction, any direction at all. We must be going after things, not as a means to an end, but focusing on the journey.
A fairytale that I recently learned about is L’Oiseau Bleu, an old Belgian tale about two impoverished children on a quest looking for a blue bird, the secret to happiness. After a long adventure to different worlds, searching, capturing, and losing different birds, they find the bird waiting back for them in their own home.
Why is it that the further we chase, the less we catch? The more we search, the less we find? I know very little about manifestation but I can say that the general improvement of my quality of life is due to a habit I developed thanks to one of my very best friends. When I first started college in the midst of the pandemic, I was truly alone for the first time, I didn’t know what to do with myself and all of the time I had to sit and think led me to some dark mental corners. But a beacon of light came through one of my best friends who encouraged me to always look for one good thing in every day, even just opening the blinds and letting the light in or slipping on a pair of flip flops to run to the dining hall. And some days it was difficult, I’d report back to her with dismal news. “Today it was raining and the dining hall ran out of fries and ice cream and every possible edible thing I could possibly imagine putting in my body.” I’d conclude it was an awful day and move on. “But?” She’d gesture. “Well I saw a flower on my way to class,” I’d relent finally. “I’m sure it was beautiful.” And just like that the sunshine in my heart was restored.
And days when I couldn’t possibly find anything she’d start off instead. “Today I got a milkshake and a nugget meal from Chick Fil A!” Finding joy in the simple things and looking for small victories which once seemed so difficult now appeared on their own. But it wasn’t because I went chasing after them, it was because it felt like they had appeared serendipitously, a miracle of their own. It’s tough to say after so many weeks of constant praise, but bad days happen everywhere, even in Europe. But it’s a mindset shift to have a sequence of bad events that don’t culminate to making for a bad day.
Just this week I had a terrible few hours where I lost one of my gloves (a recent heartbreak as they were my favorite purchase and a fur-lined pair from Edinburgh), had my umbrella inverted by the biting wind, a series of very confusing lectures that I couldn’t even pretend to follow, I was thirty minutes late to my physics meeting, and the constant rain seeped into my boots. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse a pounding headache settled in between my eyes. But right then I looked up and caught one of the most beautiful sunsets in Metz all semester. Watching the colors turn right before my eyes felt like magic. Recently, a travel buddy asked me if optimism is natural or learned. And my first instinct was to say it was natural. I was always told I was a pleasant child, smiling, and trying to brighten the atmosphere, but it wasn’t until further reflection that I’d say it’s more learned than anything. Focusing on the bad zooms in on the bad and focusing on the good zooms in on the good. Though your situations are the same, the mindset at which you approach them, and thus the conclusions you reach from them, are inherently different because of a change in processing.
Even when we were stuck in the train station for hours due to a series of cancellations and when we spent an extra hour on the metro, small pieces of good come out of everything.
Fill your life with good things. Or fill your life with things and see them as good.
Anywhere you are, you are the same person. You look at the world with the same eyes, and if something is to change, it must change within you to change outside of you. New locations, new cities, and new architecture might provide some refuge or excitement but at the end of the day the biggest change starts with you. And the blue bird can be found, perched right on your shoulder.