It was suggested by my editor I write an article about a report recently released stating the great state of California is the fourth happiest state in the nation. Why he felt I was the person to respond to such BS is beyond me. It’s as if he sees me as a miserable SOB. I might be, but if that is what makes me happy then there is nothing wrong with that.
I cannot provide a clear definition of happiness to anyone. It’s like what that former Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart, once said about pornography, “I know it when I see it.”
It’s on Facebook all the time. I do not understand why we have such a huge issue with mental illness and depression in this nation. If you just scroll through Facebook you will learn everyone is happy. Even the people who you know are miserable cranks are happy.
Television is filled with happiness. This goes back to the ancient times in our history when a bunch of misfits were stranded on Gilligan’s Island, two of whom were gorgeous, none of whom — including the lone married couple — were getting any action. Why were they so happy? Was it the coconut milk used to bake Maryanne’s cream pies or was it knowing they were never going to be rescued and returned to a world in the midst of Vietnam, student unrest, and something called a Cold War?
Then came that damn Partridge Family. Where was their dad in all of this? Mom is left with some rag tag bunch of kids, three of which looked more like Howdy Doody than humans. On top of this, they have the temerity to sing to us, “Come on, get happy.” Did you check out the scowl on Ruben’s face? I don’t think he was Happy as much as he was Grumpy. And don’t get me started on Happy Days.
According to the study my editor sent me, money influences your happiness only if you earn between $70K and $90k a year. Has anyone tried to find happiness with this kind of salary while living in one of our freeway packed urban areas? After our gas tax, mortgage, car payment, and keeping up with the Kardashian clan, we burn through that salary before Groundhog Day every year. And for all you people who do not live in this happy state of ours, nothing is free out here. Our taxes do not get us a damn thing unless you think having porta potties available in downtown parks is a state perk only enjoyed in California.
All I know is if you need to rely on stuff like metrics, data, and research to prove our state is happy, you have reason to worry about the happiness of your citizens. Do you know when Californians are happiest? When our state is not burning, flooding, parched, or blanketed with smog; we become absolutely giddy.
Happiness is a state of mind. It is not a nonsensical TV show, stupid song, or shiny new boat parked in the driveway of your tiny tract home that is located around the corner of my house and just sits there because you can’t find the time to ever use it. They may be happy they have a boat, but the rest of the neighborhood has one more eye sore to go along with the motorhomes parked out front for us to navigate around.
Did I mention my neighbor is now going on his fifth month with his extension ladder leaning against his house? I can hardly notice it because it blends in with the lawn he stopped watering.
You know what makes me happy? Knowing I no longer live in the Inland Empire. That place is an empire that never happened and never will because the leaders of our state over 20 years ago designated it as an “affordable” place for people to live if they work in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties. I am sure the people who live there and who actually have jobs enjoy their morning and evening commutes. What’s another three hours a day, 15 hours a week, and 750 hours a year of wasted time? They’re just happy to live in California.
Many years ago, there was a putrid song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” that made me want to choke the life out of the very happy guy who made it. Believe it or not, the philosophy within that song is why California can be a not so happy place to live. You see, our state leaders take the approach of never worrying and just being happy while they accomplish zilch for those of us who actually have to work for a living. California is a great place to live if you aspire to be in a position of leadership or power because it comes with a great salary and benefits plus there are no expectations for you other than to create the impression that everyone is happy.
Do the people behind this report really want us to believe California is the fourth happiest state while just to the north of us is Oregon which ranks toward the bottom? As a kid, I remember the first time I traveled to Oregon. I asked my folks what the word fornicate meant. I kept seeing bumper stickers on all the cars with Oregon plates that read, “Don’t Californicate Our State.” I know a lot of people who have either left this happy state, or desire to, and moved to Oregon. Guess what? Once they live there, they seem much happier.
I used to want to move back north up to the Sacramento Valley. However, in just the last couple of years I have seen one of the areas I like, Oroville, flood thanks to a dam breaking, and another, Paradise, burn to the ground and disappear. Then there is Redding which only a portion of it burned and Chico, which was covered with lung choking ash for months from the fires.
Nearly 40 million people live in this state, most of us legally, and most of us from paycheck to paycheck. I am pretty sure those who are happy would be happy living in any state and those who aren’t would be miserable no matter what their life was like. Happiness is a state of mind. When we are expected to put on a happy face and brag to the world on social media how great our lives are, we end up feeling pressured to keep up with the Jones’, who are trying to keep up with the Smiths, who are trying to keep up with …
Happiness does not come to us unless we know who we are well below the surface level most people show to the public. “He seemed like such a nice guy,” is a common remark we read when someone is asked to describe a person who just shot up a public place before turning the gun on himself. “He had so much to live for,” is one we read about people who “accidentally” overdosed and died.
Happy people do not shoot up places. Happy people are not asked to practice lockdown procedures, or wonder if the concert they are attending may be the last thing they do because you never know when the shit will hit the fan.
Whenever I used to go visit my mother in-law, who by the way is the very definition of miserable, it was always nice to know sitting out in front of her assisted living entrance would be an old man named Phil. On the way in and on the way out, he’d be there greeting everyone with his gruff voice and famous catch phrase, “You have a happy day now.”
Last week, his family moved him to a different facility. It does not cost as much as the one he was at, but means he has to get to know new residents and a new staff, eat different food and have a totally different set up at a stage in life where change is hard. I hope he is happy there because he always made my wife and I happy with his greeting.
If by nature you are a happy person, California is a great place to live. If you naturally are not, it sucks here. If you live in ear deep snow for six months of the year, don’t move here and think our weather is all you need to be happy. Happiness is found from within and there are as many types of happiness as there are people. Find your happiness by finding yourself then spread the joy to others wherever you live.
You have a happy day now, wherever you are.
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.