Conversations With Londoners

London, England Travel Blog

“So, second day in Lisbon, she tells you she doesn’t love you. Says she doesn’t have room for you in your life. You said it got worse every day — I don’t see how that’s possible.”

That’s Barney, my colleague here in London. He’s 22, 23. Something like that. He sits next to me in this office where I will be working for the next five weeks. 

I’d come here to London at the request of my boss, but more importantly, at the request of a romantic interest — the one I’d been chasing for the better part of a year. She’d wanted me in Europe for the summer, so we could continue our romance at a slightly closer proximity. I’d just spent an awful week with her in Lisbon, which I was currently recounting to Barney.

“Oh, it does get worse,” I say. “Third day and fourth days she’s very sick. UTI. Starts treating it with cranberry pills.”

“CRANBERRY PILLS?” Barney interrupts. “Shitting cranberry pills?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Doesn’t do anything.”

“Of course it didn’t do anything, because you need to take shitting antibiotics!” he rages. A modern man, Barney. He doesn’t suffer fools.

“Yeah,” I nod. “I know. Anyways, turns out after I leave that it’s not just a UTI — it’s a kidney infection. (Which antibiotics also would have treated.) So she’s had a kidney infection literally the entire visit.”

“Is she like a fucking hippie child?” he asks. “Kind of girl who would wear a flower crown? Why the fuck is she taking cranberry pills.”

“Ehhh… kinda,” I say. “She was wearing a flower in her hair in Lisbon,” I say, drifting off in memory. Weeks later, when I pack to leave London, I will find this bougainvillea in my luggage. I won’t know what to do with it, and will, sadly, put it back in the inner-breast pocket of my jacket. Unable to let it go.

“Hey! Hey!” Barney snaps in front of my face. “Finish your fucking story.”

“Oh, right,” I say, coming out of nostalgic memory, and back to the hard reality of the thing. “Fifth day was her birthday. That one was alright. We were supposed to go to the beach but never got there. Drank a pitcher of sangria by the famous tower, you know the one. That got her talking a little. OK day.”

“Sixth day — she’s promised me we’ll talk this day. ‘Just give me a few days,’ she said. ‘Saturday, Saturday we’ll talk.’ So, Saturday: she gets a new roommate. Her other one is out of town, so the whole time I’m there she’s been trying to sublet it, you know,”

“Jesus Christ,” says Barney.

“Yeah,” I say. “I know. I was less than happy about that. She was always trying to buy a fucking washing machine too, and shit like that? Didn’t seem very present. So anyways. Sixth day, new roommate. She gives the roommate the only set of keys.”

“Noooo,” he says.

“Yup. I told her not to, but anyways, she gives away the keys to this new person she just met. Then she makes me go pick up some more furniture. Awesome. Already told her I’m not into the whole building a house thing. But anyways, whatever, we end up getting this furniture, struggling with it on the metro, right? Then — of course — we’re locked out of the apartment. Did I mention she’s still got the kidney infection?”

“Jesus Dan,” he says, shaking his head. “You did not have much luck on this trip, did you?”

“Noooo I did not,” I say. “Anyways, so we spend that night wandering around in the cold, trying to get the keys. She’s miserable. I’m annoyed. We still haven’t talked any more about what happened on Tuesday. About us. Eventually we get the fucking keys and go home. Everyone’s angry. That’s it. That’s Saturday. No talk.”

“Next day’s Sunday. Last day. She wakes up, tries to have sex with me. I just… can’t. I’m so sad, I don’t want it, you know? Sex for me is all about the emotional connection. And she’s shut that down, completely. I go to the bathroom and just cry. 

“She wants to go to the beach, but I just want to get this fucking talk over with, you know? I force it, probably. Anyways, it goes from: she ends up inviting me to move in with her, to telling me she doesn’t have space for me in her life, to me telling her I was with another girl in New York. We run out of time, I gotta go catch my flight. And then I leave her a letter that says that I love her.”

There’s a beat.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Barney asks. “Really, what made you think ANY. OF. THAT. was a good idea?”

“Things did get away from me a little bit,” I admit.

“No fucking shit they got away from you,” Barney says. “Wayyyy far away.”

Then he adds: “Can I read the letter?”

I hesitate for a second, then say: “Sure. Why not?”

I have nothing left to lose.

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100 Happy Days

I finished the #100HappyDays challenge last Wednesday.

Tyrolean Traverse Boulder Creek

Day 1

I have to be honest: it took me more than 100 days to complete the challenge (Reflections from Day 50 on August 31). I started the 100 Happy Days challenge on July 7, 2014, with a picture of myself using a tyrolean traverse to cross Boulder Creek. I finished with a picture taken on opening day at Beaver Creek Resort, just five minutes up the road from my home here in Vail, CO.

Anyways. I started on July 7, and I finished on November 26. There are 142 days between those dates. The goal of the 100 Happy Days challenge is to find something to be happy about for 100 consecutive days. Now, by that parameter, I failed the challenge. But I don’t feel like I did.

Sure, there were a few bad days in those three months, and more than a few boring ones. That’s fine. To be expected, really. The thing that surprised me was, even on those days when I maintained radio silence, I could often find things that made me happy.

I didn’t post them because I didn’t think people would want to see them.

This tendency, to me, tells a very interesting story about the way we mediate our own happiness through the perceptions of others.

I should have realized that audience would play a role in #100HappyDays due to the fact that the challenge took place on social media. However, I started the 100 Happy Days challenge with myself at the front of my thinking. As the challenge progressed, my thoughts evolved from “what makes me happy?” to “what should I show other people?” I began curating an image without even trying.

Image curation is one of the most annoying aspects of social media. Everyone decries Facebook as a false front; everyone continues to participate in a charade they all decry. “He’s not really happy in that picture! I know that because I posted 12 smiling selfies in the last week but I’m miserable.”

Happiness seems like the ultimate goal of all the young people I know. Not money, not love, not a career: more than anything, I hear “I just want to be happy.”

Wolcott, CO

The Pursuit of Happiness— Day 58.

Some observations about my 100 Happy Days:

  • 3 pictures depict billiards or pool tables
  • 4 happy days relate to alcohol
  • 7 percent of pictures relate to skiing
  • 9 percent of pictures relate to rock climbing or bouldering
  • 9 percent of pictures feature my family or depict family events
  • 14 percent of the 100 happy days pictures feature my girlfriend
  • 18 percent of the pictures show me (not always smiling either!)
  • 20 percent of the photos involve travel
  • 66 percent of happy days pictures were taken outside
  • Money is mentioned only once

This list is makes too much sense. It’s actually a little disappointing to me that this breakdown reveals exactly what I like. A person who knows me fairly well could ID me just from that breakdown.

It’s nice to appreciate the simple things in life, but we all appreciate our hobbies anyways. I had hoped that the #100HappyDays challenge might reveal something about me, about my everyday, that I had never realized before. This hope, really, was at the heart of my participation, I think. After all, one photo a day isn’t a big commitment to put against potential insight. But I can’t say with a straight face that I got nothing out of it.

Refocusing your attention and perspective on positivity is an exercise that will never hurt you.

It is a “lifehack” which is absolutely foolproof. It is worth being here. It is worth being ALIVE. And being reminded of that cannot be considered a bad thing.

There’s a reason this cataloging of good or happy things over a period of time is a common activity given to depression patients as part of their therapy. However, the psychiatrist asks her patient to write in a journal, a secret place– a safe place– free of judgment. Beating depression or “seizing the day” or whatever platitude you are pursing is always presented as an achievable goal because it is entirely within yourself.

When you put your inner happinesses and successes out into the court of public opinion, things are suddenly very different.

This is where the 100 Happy Days challenge becomes a much tougher subject to get a handle on. Who is the 100 Happy Days Challenge for? If it is for us, the participants, it would be more effective if performed online. And it can’t really be for the audience, can it? Not when everyone is all-too-aware that those people who appear insufferably happy on social media only incite spite.

The people who heavily use social media are not usually the people who are genuinely sympathetically enthused that things are going so well for you. The existence of #100HappyDays actually makes every day sadder for these people, in some tiny way.

I had a number of friends mention the challenge to me in person. Usually the reference was in passing, or in a slightly joking tone. None of these people engaged with my pictures often on social media, but they were all aware of them. Which brings up another contradictory facet of the challenge: not receiving likes or comments on a happy experience can actually cause the user to question or revise their own perception of the moment. Which adds complication to the experience.

100 Happy Days– a challenge advocating slowing down and enjoying the simple things in life– is actually adding several additional layers of complexity and unnecessary validation to our every day lives.

Actually, that’s not unique to #100HappyDays. That contradiction defines social media as a whole.

I’m thinking of getting off it entirely.