The other day I was in my car on my car on my way to an oil change appointment and I smelled the distinct scent of petrol mixed in with cigarette smoke. I know this smell very well because it is exactly what Bangladesh smells like, all the time. On the streets of Dhaka you literally cannot escape this smell, and it’s almost hard to experience the smell by itself and disentangling it from the sensory fullness of Dhaka: beeping cars on every side of you, the ever present jerk forward on rickshaws as other rickshaws bump into you, and the sights and sounds of a million people and their various cars/CNGs/rickshaws around you.
The smell was likely coming from the car ahead of me, an old Pontiac Sunfire with its windows down and “Cree Pride” written on the back windshield, and I caught a glimpse of a cigarette in a hand out the front window.
As I noticed the scent, I also took note of my other sensory experiences: my windows were down on this 27 degree day and the warm of the glorious northern latitude sun directly on my cheek. A faint warm breeze flowing between the open windows. Ed Sheeran serenading me through my car audio, songs about sweet, sentimental love. The endless blue sky, crystalline with cotton candy clouds lazily hanging on the horizon.
I realised that this is as perfect as perfect moments ever get. Everything feels amazing and I have everything I need to feel happy. I am fully equipped for contentment. It doesn’t matter that I’m running meaningless errands or that I’m tired from lectures and that I have work to do. This moment is perfection.
I almost chided myself after that initial thought of how ridiculously happy I was, sitting in my car. I caught myself thinking, why am I feeling so content over something as dumb as the warm sun and the smell of gasoline and cigarettes? After all, here is a list of things I shouldn’t be happy about: never studying enough, my ongoing research project dilemmas, the fact that everyone is getting married this summer and I’m single as ever, that I didn’t work out today, my upcoming oral exam, all the housework this weekend…. et cetera, et cetera, et cetera……
And then I shut up my own internal dialogue and allowed myself to soak in every moment of happiness about the sun, Ed Sheeran, and the cigarette smoke.
Today I attended a wedding of a used-to-be-really-close-friend, and the only reason we drifted apart is our busy lives. Weddings are usually a mixed bag of emotions, with a constant feeling of a need to impress, look pretty, make small talk, feel bad about showing up late, get a lot of looks, take pictures with a bride you don’t know very well, and all the while wallow in your emphasized singledom. I know it’s cliche, but I’m 25. The pressure is always there.
Today didn’t feel like that. Today felt like old friends, smiles, group photos, funny faces, and pure love and joy. I didn’t feel the need to impress a single person today. I didn’t make small talk with anyone that I didn’t enjoy seeing. I didn’t look at the bride and think, God I wish that was me. Instead I looked at her with the loving eye of someone who has witnessed her struggles, seen her up and seen her down, listened to her cry her heart out to me, and finally be sitting next to a man who promised he would make her happy for the rest of her life. And I remember feeling so happy for her to have finally received this day and this blessing. There was ZERO animosity today, and if I think back I don’t think there was ever a time that has happened. I know it’s sad to perpetuate the catty competition innate in women, but I can’t help it–when it comes to marriage, it’s just there. When it’s my friends getting married I usually can’t help but make comparisons and wish I were in her shoes, and when it’s my parent’s friends or other relatives’ weddings I usually don’t feel any connection or emotion about the wedding at all.
Instead, today, I laughed and laughed and laughed at my table full of friendly faces. I gave genuine hugs to girls I genuinely missed. I didn’t feel the looming pressure of being single, or feelings of sadness in any form. It was just joy. Only joy.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, you can find pure, unadulterated happiness in moments you least expect it. And when they come, the natural tendency is to tell yourself you shouldn’t be feeling this way, where that strange superego part of us tells us what we can and can’t feel. I guess what I’m discovering is a way to shut that superego up and feel wonderful anyway. I am so, so happy for Aaysha. But I am also so happy to have enjoyed a beautiful evening as a single lady with my other single ladies. In fact, I feel quite confident I wouldn’t have enjoyed this night nearly as much as if I’d been attending as someone’s wife, instead of as the bride’s long time friend. I am happy to have felt guilt-free about being single, and be happy about it. I thank my lucky stars I was single tonight and had a chance to enjoy this wonderful evening as it was.
And I am happy to have found happiness in tiny little moments of warm sunshine and cigarettes and gasoline.