Colorful lanterns swayed in the warm evening breeze above and around us, lending a warm and inviting glow to the crowded streets below. “All these lanterns make me want to fall in love,” my friend, Anne, quipped. We laughed and joked at how ridiculous that sounded, but she had a point.
Every evening under the rainbow luminescence dozens of couples walked hand in hand in their wedding attire as photographers captured their romance on film. Lovers stole kisses under archways dripping in fragrant jasmine vines and others exchanged knowing glances across a candlelit dinner table. Hoi An really was a magical place; and then one day I, too, fell in love.
No, I didn’t fall in love with a man; I think we’ve all given up on that happening in this decade. (I have far too many poop stories to ever attract a reasonable male). But as I strolled down the streets on my own one evening, piano music tinkling from a building as I stopped to smell those glorious jasmine flowers, I felt my heart swell with a different kind of love: a love for my own life.
As crazy as it may sound, for all the wild and amazing things I’ve been doing with my life lately, it’s been a long time since I truly, completely loved my life. There was always a note of doubt, a sliver of fear, and a shade of insecurity that held me back from that real, unbridled passion for life. And then one day, walking the streets of Hoi An, I realized I was finally happy. Inexplicably, stupidly happy.
Who can say why our heart suddenly changes? It might be what someone says, or does. It might be a major event, or it might simply be the right hue of light. It might be the right chord, conspiring with the universe to chime at just the right moment so that it catches you off guard in a thoughtful reverie. Whatever the case, when the moment comes to release our inhibitions and let joy into our hearts, we must embrace it.
My days in Hoi An were spent riding bikes through rice paddies, lounging at the beach, taking a cooking class, volunteering at an orphanage, getting clothes tailor made, eating dessert to my heart’s delight (but not my stomach’s), and laughing with friends. If that’s not enough to make a person absurdly happy, then someone tell me what happiness even is.
Walking down the street in Hoi An, my heart bursting with excitement at my newfound happiness, I knew how cheesy it all sounded. When I thought about telling anyone I cringed at the cheese factor of it all. God, sometimes I’m so cheesy I could melt. I am a corny, cheesy, silly person.
But that’s the beauty and liberty of this kind of happiness: I just don’t care. It’s my life, and I’m living it exactly the way I want to. What more could I really ask for?
Have you ever had a time in your life where you were really, truly happy?