This week I stumbled upon the Facebook page, Humans of New York. It’s one of those things that you get really excited to tell all of your friends, only to learn that most people have already heard of it but never told you. Anticlimactic. But I digress.
Humans of New York (for those like me who it’s all new to) started as a book. A photographer went around NYC, taking photos of the random people he sees and talks to them. Here’s how Brandon, the man behind hit all, describes the journey:
My name is Brandon and I began Humans of New York in the summer of 2010. I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants, so I set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map. I worked for several months with this goal in mind, but somewhere along the way, HONY began to take on a much different character. I started collecting quotes and short stories from the people I met, and began including these snippets alongside the photographs. Taken together, these portraits and captions became the subject of a vibrant blog. With nearly four million followers on social media, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City. It has also become a #1 NYT bestselling book.. It’s been quite a ride so far. Feel free to follow along.
One of the HONY posts really struck me. She said,
I worked at the same cafe for 28 years, but it just went out of business, so I had to find new work. Before it was like I had a family. I saw the same people every day. But now I just have a job. One day you lose something, and you say: ‘Oh my God. I was happy. And I didn’t even know it.’
Happiness is such a weird thing, and I feel like it quite the hot topic these days. When you’re young it’s easy. You are happy when you do good on a test and when your crush asks you on a date. You are sad when you stub your toe or your parents are “ruining your life.” But then life gets a little harder. There are bills, wars, accidents, heart breaks and plenty of toe stubbings. In fact if you’re not careful, you can be living a completely happy life and be absolutely miserable in it.
The other day I was driving listening to a great song on my way to Dallas. And I just had this moment where kind of realized how happy I am, just like the woman above. There’s the messy stuff, but generally speaking I am happy. The thought that I could have that happiness taken away, kind of scares me. The woman above didn’t even realize how happy she was until she wasn’t happy anymore. How terrifying is that? Sometimes we don’t the things in our life until we don’t have them. It’s a terrible habit.
But there is a way to always be happy. To always find the good, even when things suck.
In yoga we talk a lot about being a tree. A tree lets the wind push and shove, and it just gracefully dances, taking the gusts in stride. We also talk about finding the happiness. Always looking for the good, even if it’s just noticing the first flower blooming on an average, run of the mill day.
I’ve also been reading a lot lately about keeping a grateful journal. It’s where you write something you are grateful for every day. It keeps you centered, focused and happy.
To the woman above who says she was happy and she isn’t. I say don’t accept that. And to anyone who finds that things are kind of rough, I say look on the bright side. I don’t mean that metaphorically. I mean purposeful optimism. Taking the time each and everyday to be thankful. Finding something each day that you focus your happy energy on.
So I’m practicing. I’m practicing gratefulness. Because you never know when the things in your life will change. You just don’t. Things aren’t always going to be great. I think it’s important to feel true happiness, at peace with the universe, no matter your life circumstances.
It’s easy to be happy when everything is going your way. When you get a promotion, when you’re in love, when you get your tax return. But what happens when things get a little harder. I think we should always be striving to keep a smile on our face.