I had thought to make my 100th post of my #100happydays something special but in the end, it turned out to be yet another very small thing (comfy slippers!) prompting a slightly greater reflection on family and visitors. I’m not sorry.
I’m also not sorry that this is going to be a very, very long post and it will end up very far from where it begins. Where it ends up, you will get to find out if you can find the fortitude to stick with me.
What to do now? I think I might just continue counting and see how far I get. I spent a while dithering on the dichotomy between whether it was appropriate to keep this a public project or not. If it’s all about flaunting the highlights of your day, that’s not really about your happiness, is it? That’s about your narcissism and need for attention. But at the same time, would it be as easy to accomplish this daily if there was no one watching you? In the most exhausted evenings of the last 100 days I honestly had more than one evening where I didn’t want to bother with the daily post. Either I didn’t have anything I felt really excited to post about or I just didn’t have the energy to write or plan the photo. I’ll be totally honest, if I were doing this privately in a journal or just my computer those would be the moments I would give up bit by bit. It’s ok to just skip one day, right? And that makes it easier to skip another day. And another. There is no one around to hold you accountable other than yourself and initially it might feel good to relieve yourself a bit from the pressure of the challenge. But after a while the self-recrimination will set in. You failed, you will think. You couldn’t be bothered. Why even bother continuing? And suddenly your project to challenge yourself to find peace and happiness in small everyday things actually becomes a toxic shard in your consciousness, leeching away at your self-esteem and hard-won mental equilibrium.
So, public it is. I honestly don’t care if my friends and followers can’t actually be bothered to read through an entire entry, but just the knowledge of the potential for an audience is enough to keep me as honest as possible with myself.
To avoid the charge of flagrant narcissism I’ve tried with each photo to find greater reflection about my life in each moment, beyond just the immediate image. Well, actually I never consciously set out to do this at the start, I just have trouble with brevity and where my thoughts meandered on their own accord I followed. I will freely admit this has not always been successful. Sometimes you just need to find indulgence in the most superficial thing you can find as a counterpoint to a heavy day. But that’s just the point, isn’t it? No one can be happy all the time. No one can be happy for 100 days in a row. No one *should* be happy that much all the time because then the concept loses meaningfulness and importance. We have to have our challenges, our trials, our upsets and disappointments, our dark hours and days in order to really appreciate our own happiness. So for me, I have found the heart of his project to be seeking out those counterpoints, whether they come in big things or small. It’s not about *being* happy all the time. It’s about accepting that you *can’t* be happy all the time and finding or reclaiming joy in the everyday things we often overlook as we get bogged down with the minutiae of our lives.
Now… if you’ve stuck with me this far I’ll talk about the photos. I wanted to post this for the 100th day actually and also make it a Throwback Thursday moment, but today is more appropriate. You see, on this day 29 years ago, my family landed in JFK Airport in New York as refugees. We had been on the road from 17 December 1987. This was my (and my mother’s) exit visa, from which I have redacted some of the more sensitive information in order to post here. These were our only official documents for this period. With our citizenship revoked on exit we had no passports, and all other official identity documents were in the process of being smuggled out of the Soviet Union in the Dutch diplomatic pouch to avoid confiscation.
Why does this matter now? Well… I used to studiously avoid politics and other controversial topics on Facebook. It was not a forum I wanted to utilise nor did I feel that there was any real benefit to shouting into my own echo chamber. This changed during the most recent US presidential election. I mean, I still don’t think there is any significant benefit being derived from my rantings, ramblings, ravings, and musings. Most of my friends are like-minded. I am not changing the world one person at a time with this social platform.
But I felt I could no longer, in my own good conscience, stay silent. Even if my posts were never read by anyone, or even if they were read but not a single person was budged an inch from their firmly held views, I didn’t care. I could simply no longer contain my rage, my despair, my determination to, at the very minimum, register my disgust with events that I believe are a perversion of the American ideal. I may no longer reside in the United States, but I know now, after many years of living abroad, that at heart, I will always be an American. And because America is the only nation that embraced the concert of identity (however flawed in execution) on the basis of a common set of ideals and not on any ethnic, religious or race grounds, I have always felt confident in my identity as a Russian-American. I may now be a Russian-Irish-American, but what I do know is that I can spend the rest of my life living in Ireland but I will never really be truly “Irish”. And this, more than ever, reminds me of how important it is for the world to have America as a leader in the protection of political and religious freedom, a beacon of acceptance.
Twenty nine years ago America welcomed my family onto its soil. It didn’t hand much else to us on a platter. Everything my family achieved was a result of the extreme hard work and dedication of my parents. But America did hand to us the opportunity to pursue that dream for which many others in the world presently endure great hardships to grasp – the ability for my parents to raise their children in peace, to worship or not to worship as we pleased, to vote or not to vote as we felt like, and to express our views and opinions without fear of reprisal. For that, America, I thank you.
And for that I will continue to exercise my right of citizenship by voting. By staying informed, by writing to my own representatives, far though they may be. Because having been the recipient of such a gift I cannot bear to see America now close its doors on that which has made it so great in the past.
Also, I will be starting a blog soon. Posting essays on Facebook is getting ridiculous.
This was originally posted on Facebook and has been modified slightly and backdated to the original date on this blog.