Losing your job is a bit like a breakup. Draw a Venn Diagram of the two, and in the middle space would be words like “We’re/I’m not happy with your performance,” “We’re/I’m going to have to let you go,” “We/I want to explore more options with other people.” The only difference is the pronouns.
Two weeks ago, my contract with a particular company ended and was not renewed. I lost my job.
It was in the wake of losing my first job that I realized how easy and simple it was to be happy. It’s just easier for us to forget how. All it took was a series of pleasant little things to add up. It was like a crash course on having fun, with the tests coming before the lessons.
It started with dinner with two friends I met at after-work parties. The food was fantastic, and I didn’t have to pay for it. There were a lot of laughs to go around.
Lesson no. 1: Don’t chew and laugh. While there is more to be gained by eating with good company than eating alone, it is inadvisable to spray food at your companions. But laugh when you can.
We went out after dinner and sat on one of the benches around a floor fountain. Suddenly, a high-pitched shriek tore through the evening, as a little girl in a small blue dress ran to the fountain.
She was around three feet tall, the most adorable thing with blonde hair and blue eyes. She kept running around the fountain like she could keep doing it forever. And she was screaming at the top of her lungs and laughing, as only a child could.
After a few minutes, she just walked right into the fountain, stomping, kicking, and punching the jets of water. She was drenched. Her dad played along. The people around us were smiling, some were even taking pictures. Watching this whole scene left me euphoric.
Lesson no. 2: Wherever you go, take time to look at kids, especially in their joyful moments. You’ll find yourself sharing in them.
Later, we were walking on a bridge over a little man-made stream when we met a sleek black cat. For the superstitious ones, no, we didn’t see our impending doom. The cat deserved a petting, though, and that’s what we did. It kept following us around until something in the bushes distracted it. How disarmingly cute.
Lesson no. 3: Get a pet. No need to buy one. Pick up a stray that likes you. When you’re running out of people to tell your sorrows and everything to, tell them to your furry friend. It’s one of those things that keep people sane.
We kept walking until our feet took us to the Ayala Triangle Gardens. It was turning out to be quite a stroll.
Lesson no. 4: Keep walking. You can’t stay anywhere forever, to put it bluntly. Not even in beautiful and pleasant places. You have to keep moving.
We reveled in how dark and empty it was, finding joy in the smell of grass and running around the field. There were some stars out. The city lights swallowed up many of the stars except the brightest. Still, wide open spaces, the soft grass under our feet, the quiet chill, and points of light in the darkness above were really beautiful.
Lesson no. 5: Enjoy nature. With the way the world is going, I doubt there’s much to enjoy in the future.
We were walking along Makati Avenue when we noticed something odd happened around the Sultan Kudarat statue. That side of the road was raining, but the opposite side, our side, was dry as gunpowder. It was a really cool phenomenon, until the rain caught up with us and poured over our heads.
Lesson no. 6: Keep yourself healthy. You never know when you’re going to be caught in the rain, and it would be a waste if you didn’t play or dance or sing in it.
We were positively soaked and running for cover when we reached a dry spot. A minute later, there was rain over our heads again. We looked for another dry spot, but the rain always caught up with us. This went on for around an hour. Then we realized a rain cloud was chasing us.
Who was to say it wasn’t going to strike us with lightning next? We laughed.
Lesson no. 7: When rain clouds, figurative or otherwise, chase you, laugh. But not enough to invite lightning.
We managed to get out of rain’s way and into a fast-food joint. We were wet and cold. It didn’t stop me from feeling the euphoria of a good night, though. Half the time we were just laughing. I remarked on this noisily while we were ordering, when my friend asked, “Are you high?”
“I’m not high!” I replied, indignant.
Then a woman’s voice with a European accent said, “Are you sure?” I turned around. She was a slightly big-boned woman with long blonde hair. Then I said “Uhm, no.” We laughed. It was true, in a way, because I looked high, probably from a surge of endorphins. We had a pleasant chat while waiting for our orders. When it was served, we said good-bye and nice-to-meet-you and went our separate ways. What a nice stranger.
Lesson no. 8: Nobody can prove that talking to strangers has yielded more disastrous than pleasant results. If you can talk to a stranger and get something good out of it, take the chance. Not every person is a serial sex offender or mugger.
We went to a table and talked about how the night went as we ate. I hadn’t felt that happy in ages, and I told my friends so. It was like I hadn’t been laid off at all.
A great man once said that we all live forever in any moment in time, no matter how dead we seem to be after all the moments we have lived are gone. Your seventh birthday will always be there. Your first kiss, too, although it wasn’t as good as you thought it was then, now that you’re older.
And then there are days like the day after I lost my first job. You could be having a rotten day now, but somewhere in the past and future, you’re having the time of your life.
Lesson no. 9: Remember the bad days, but dwell on the good ones.
It’s easy to be happy, it’s just easier to forget how. Which brings us to Lesson no. 10: Enjoy the little things.