On Happiness

In Yellow House Chronicles by Natalie Shaw

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I have been gone from the farmhouse a while, gallivanting around Colorado, first at a horse show in the foothills and then playing Maid of Honor at one of my best friend’s weddings up in the mountains. I was lucky enough to find my soulmates at a small liberal arts college in northwestern Ohio, and the wedding brought almost all of us back together again for the first time in a long while.

After a weekend of soaking in their company, I returned home to my empty farmhouse in mourning. We have a phrase for the aftermath of every get together: a “social hangover.” It’s a feeling of dizzying sadness that creeps in after the exhaustion of each of our separate journeys home has worn off, lingering for at least a few days after we part, when we remember that we used to see each other every morning for breakfast and now must settle for the dull comfort of group texts and Google hangouts.

Each time a social hangover sets in, I find myself questioning everything. Should I move closer to them, change jobs, try harder to find comparable friendships here? What will make me happy? It leads to conversations like this one that I had with one of those soulmates last week:

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I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if anyone does. I think I’m closer now, most of the time, in this quiet yellow farmhouse nestled amongst wooded hills in eastern Nebraska. But I can’t shake the feeling that I’m still wearing the wrong hat. Improper shoes for the occasion. A sweater that just doesn’t work.

I know that I am lucky. That questioning my happiness is a privilege most of the world will never experience. For now I will keep reminding myself to take notice of the things that do make me happy, and make a life out of it. I will keep watching the sunset in this empty hay field, filling a journal with millennial ramblings like this. I will keep plugging away at that novel I’m convinced will change everything.

I will keep eating corn.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Ryan McCullah

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Natalie Shaw
Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Natalie spent her college years at the impossibly idyllic Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio where she studied International Studies, Environmental Studies, and floating down rivers in inflatable tubes. After being forced to graduate in 2009, she hopped around the country for a few years, grooming wildly expensive horses in New Jersey for Olympic equestrian Anne Kursinski, yelling at puppies at a dog daycare back in Omaha, and playing corporate lackey for one long year at a real estate information company in Washington, D.C. She landed back in Omaha in the fall of 2011 and is working hard to cure her wanderlust. Natalie now lives and works at a horse boarding facility just north of Omaha with her cat Obie, 60 horses, and approximately 1,000 wild turkeys.
Natalie Shaw

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