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Next Stop: Happiness

A popular goal that many of us have in life is to create happy memories. We take it upon ourselves to plan exciting vacations, we mark special occasions with decorative balloons and confetti, we engrave our jewelry with unique sentiment, and we take pictures of… well, pretty much everything. All of this for the purpose of being able to look back one day on the happy, fulfilled, and successful lives we’ve made for ourselves (and with possibly little to no regrets).

What we don’t seem to realize though is that the majority of memories we “create” in our lives actually tend not to be in our conscious control at all. We don’t get to actively choose every thought, every emotion, or every moment that gets stored in our hearts and minds because every single thing we do or say, no matter how insignificant, has the potential to be worthy of long-term memory storage. Whether we are actively trying to remember something or not, remembering still happens. Memory is not something we can just turn on for the happy/exciting times and turn off for the boring/upsetting ones.

Memory can be our greatest friend and yet our worst enemy.

Consider the varying/numerous memories (and associated emotions) that likely flood you just while on your commute to work. You’ve likely had emotional experiences at every gas station you pass by, the coffee shops, the grocery stores, or even the dock on the waterfront…

You might pass by your local Starbucks and feel a flash of happiness that lights up your face with a smile as you remember that day last month when you clumsily knocked your husband’s coffee cup off the table in front of all the other customers; a moment that set off an eruption of embarrassed laughter between the two of you until, with a loving playful guilt, you decided to slide your chair next to his and share your cup.

As you pass Starbucks, you might still get a flutter of excitement when you stop at that same traffic light where you picked up the call from your best friend 2 years ago telling you that she was going to be a new mom; just the simple visual of the yellow light changing to red and your foot pressing down on the brake pedal might be enough to transport you back to that squeaky excited tone in her voice and the tears of happiness building up in your eyes.

A couple blocks from there you might still let out a little chuckle as you pass the dock where your baby daughter (now grown) used to look down into the water and point her tiny finger at all the “fishies” and “duckies” as they swam by her on that beautiful sunny day so many years ago.

None of these memories were planned. They had nothing to do with a special occasion, nor were they motivated by a goal to remember it all one day. These are moments in time that have been locked into our being without our awareness or intent… and only because in their insignificant ways they made significant impressions on us. They brought happiness to us that we didn’t need to seek out.

If only our lives could consist of these happiness road-maps alone…

But unfortunately, our paths are fraught with just as many sad sights and landmarks (if not more) as our happy ones…