Towards the end of last year, I finally read Derren Brown’s book Happy: Why more or less everything is absolutely fine. It was a long time coming. I’d heard Derren speak during his book tour back in 2016, and I learned so much from that short time that I’ve been shouting about ever since; namely, that I’m most definitely a frog.
Why, then, did it take me well over a year to finally read the book itself? I don’t really know, but I’m glad that I did it.
It’s a pretty academic book, so it’s not a light read, and there was certainly a good chunk that wasn’t particularly applicable to me, but I was interested to see what I would draw from it without trying too hard. I may go back to it again, and I’m sure I’ll learn more when I do, but this time around there was one thing that stood out to me above all the rest.
It doesn’t matter where you go, you always take yourself with you.
It might sound obvious when you put it like that, but the meaning behind it has been a bit of an a-ha moment for me. When I look back on my life, I can see periodic moments when all I wanted to do was get away, to escape to somewhere interesting and leave all of my troubles behind. I think we’ve all been there?
What Derren opened my eyes to see, is the reason those trips never tend to live up to the expectations – because I’m always there.
No matter how exotic somewhere might look in the pictures, how many restaurants are there to sample the local cuisine, how much time you can fill with activities you can’t do at home, you’re always there with yourself.
With the same baggage and annoyances and thought patterns that you deal with everyday. You still have the same memories and the same mood swings and the same likes and dislikes, so putting you in a different place on the map can wind up being rather underwhelming.
I had a first-hand experience of this concept recently, albeit on a much less impressive scale. Every year around Christmas my local town hosts an ice rink, where my favourite cafe pops up to offer their most delicious wares, and I made it my mission to go.
I was excited. I envisioned a cosy warmth, buzzing with the joy of the festive season, twinkling lights adding to the atmosphere to create the most idyllic mince pie I’d ever have. By now I’m sure you’re not surprised to find out that it didn’t live up to its expectations.
In the end, there was just me, who doesn’t really get into the festive spirit, with Sam, who I see every single day. We were just in a different place. We weren’t suddenly overcome with Christmas cheer. Hot chocolate was just the same as it always is, and having spent the previous few days together we weren’t overcome with thrilling conversation.
So, as I sat in that rustically decorated cafe, watching the skaters zoom around on a December evening, I was struck by one clear thought – Derren was right.
And, y’know, that’s OK. And it’s really good to know, because hopefully now, when the desire to jump on a plane and escape to someplace far away inevitably comes to call, I can look at it with a knowing fondness, before allowing it to pass me by.
Now, I don’t mean that I’m not going to travel in the future, or head on adventures, as I’m sure I will. I just hope that when I do, I’ll be planning an adventure for me, one that I can truly enjoy, just as I am, instead of trying to leave it all behind.