At my gloriously insightful, ripe, and still knowingly naive age of 23, I have come to the following conclusion. It is within my deepest, personal beliefs that happiness in life can be categorized by four encompassing ideals: peace, love, hugs, and (cup)cakes.
PEACE: Yes, world peace would be wonderful, but that's not really the form of peace I am referring to. (World peace is ultimately unattainable, in my opinion, because there will always be forms and forces of evil that stifle any chance for sublimity to win over war and hatred. Jealousy, mistrust, judgment, and inherently opposing different religious beliefs are just a few stumbling blocks in the never-ending race for peace.)
I am referring to a type, well-two types, of peace that are far more achievable. Inner Peace and Peace with Others.
Inner Peace is self-explanatory; it is not, however, the ultimate goal that one should be at complete peace with oneself- that is far too unfathomable (at least at my current age) because then the desire to constantly better oneself is lost. (What's the point of being better if you're already at peace with where you are?) It is the goal of attempting to find an inner calm, always reaching for it, and finding ways to achieve some small sense of it in one aspect or another. Sort of like a collection of jigsaw puzzles, I think. The body and soul are not one large puzzle that will take years of experience of life to put together, but rather an entire collection of different ones. Some are smaller and can be completed rather effortlessly. Some are incredibly difficult and take concentration, time and care to construct. Some are put together, broken apart, and reconfigured more durably and attentively than before. Some are two seemingly separate puzzles that are finished individually, but then one finds a piece that connects and combines them. And some will always have missing pieces that were either lost, stolen, left in the box that got thrown away, intentionally hidden by others or ourselves, or have otherwise disappeared into an unknown 5th dimension with the other socks and earring backs. There are always new puzzles to configure and when completed are neatly (or haphazardly, depending on the individual) stored in memory.
I am always working on my puzzles. My Educational Edition seems complete at the moment, though there is always room for additional pieces, and I'm ready to begin my Career one. At the same time, I am coming to terms with the missing pieces in the Body Image puzzle: the picture is quite the smorgasbord of Ideal Bodies, Favorite Meals, Dance Images, and Gym Equipment, without giving up on what's left of the puzzle that I know I have the right pieces for (I just haven't put them all together yet, or even found a few).
It's a constant strive for peace, which contradicting-ly creates some sense of peace within itself.
Peace with Others is another type of peace that requires constant attention and work, and also I don't think is ever fully completed; unless you never meet another new person in your life and/or the people you already know never change or grow and/or you never change or grow. And I don't think attempting to be at peace with others means you have to like or respect them. I am at peace with the fact that there are some people I just hate, period. I understand their flaws, can surmise where their less than lovable qualities came from, and may know they have ultimately good intentions at heart. I know that I shouldn't really hate them, and that they may really like me. But I also know that our personalities do not mesh, that I find them annoying, and/or I have no desire or possible want to be their friend. I don't want them to die in excruciating agony, of course, but a curable disease or humiliating fall would be a nice occasional occurrence. I am at a sort of peace with that. And some people are just wholly evil and deserve every punishment possible. But sadly, there are not a waste of space if their only purpose is to do nothing more than teach us what not to be and the consequences of poor judgment and decisions. (Hitler and Osama excluded, of course. Those man don't even deserve existence.) For good or bad, I strive to have a peace of my relationship with a person, even if it's not one that I particularly like or wanted to have. It may be platonic when I had hoped for romantic, but I have to accept I made the mistakes to get it there, or didn't do enough, or it just wasn't meant to be. Or that I have to try harder or differently next time with the next person to make it the type of relationship I want. I must accept them for who they are and whatever purpose they may serve in this world. I am always looking for that peace of mind, pardon the pun.
Love. Like peace, there isn't one form of it. There's many. And I think any and all forms are equally important. Significantly and flippantly. Whimsically and Wholly. Love for oneself. Love for family. Platonic and Romantic. For both same and opposite sex. There's nothing wrong with a healthy same-sex crush, in my opinion (or opposite-sex crush if you're LGBT). Or anything wrong with thinking you can have a soulmate of the same sex, regardless of sexual orientation. Soulmate doesn't have to have a romantic, sexual connotation. And I don't think it should either. Love for your pets. For animals. For food. For health. For that trashy romance novel. For eating Moose Tracks ice cream with globs of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup while watching the newest episode of Ghost Hunters on SyFy. For finding the right matching sock out of the fresh laundry bin when you're running out the door and eleven minutes late. For making every green light on the way home from work. For reading your teeny-bopper diary entries from middle school. For walking down the up escalator. For watching your coworker get chewed out by your boss. For seeing someone getting a rightful slap in the face. For finding out your friend is expecting. For your lover. For your grandparents. For getting the acknowledgment, reward or feeling that you deserve. For hard work. For trying. Just trying. For a great book. A long plane ride. Just the right length catnap. The perfect, sincerest compliment. A pink and purple orchid. A thank you note (or email; thank you in any form should be loved and given, even when not necessarily deserved). A smile. A smell. A look. Whatever it is, I try to love it with every part of myself that I can healthily afford to...though the unhealthy addictive loves find their own necessity in my quest through life too. All loves are important in life. A love to love.
HUGS. Lots and lots of them. Literally and figuratively. Metaphorically, hugs are the physical and public expression of love, happiness, peace, appreciation, respect, value, intimacy and all things otherwise wonderful. I don't think you have to literally hug everyone you respect or every item you enjoy, but I do think one should show his appreciation, love etc. I always try to find different ways to show someone I care about them; I don't just think it. I think the other person should know how you feel about them. Share your thoughts. Share your body. Share yourself. Give yourself. Give someone something that can't be taken back, that's not a material object, that doesn't require a lot of thought or time. Something full of emotion. Physical intimacy. Care. Bear hugs. Pat on Back hugs. "Bro" hugs. Quick-on-the-run hugs. Long cuddling hugs. An e-mail (((hug))). A written hug xoxo. Any size. Any time. All the time. When you can. When you don't really want to. But do it. As often as you can.
Cake. Cake as means of food is nourishment. It keeps you alive, duh. But it's no piece of bread either (and don't get me wrong, I do love bread). It's a delicious divulgence. It's sweet, delectable, rich, creamy, light, airy, filling-filled, layered, fruity, chocolate-y, simple or decadent. It can also be a bit spicy, or have a weird after-taste, or not baked long enough, or not creamy enough, or not perfect, just quite yet. And I think life should be too. All of those. All at once. All at different times, in different moments. And like with peace, one has to be both the chef and taster. The constant strive to be a Five-Star French Pastry Chef and bake the perfect cake creation must equal the amount of tasting you do. I always want to bake the cake a little better, a little differently, with slight changes in the ingredients, start from scratch, use others' ideas, or just be too tired and have someone else bake it for me. I also always want to eat and enjoy it: from my creations, from others. Try new flavors. Go back to my favorites. And I think all things in life can be related to these feelings.
Cake also signifies celebration. Of age, marriage, engagement, baby, retirement, success, divorce, travel, Mothers/Fathers day, graduation, etc etc. Or just because. And all of the wonderful moments in life should be celebrated, with or without an actual cake. Though, in my opinion, who ever would pass up an opportunity to eat cake? They should be celebrated with friends, friends of friends, family, new acquaintances, coworkers, pets, and by yourself.
I don't think I'm a guru, buddha, wise sage, philosophical scholar. I'm not trying to be pretentious or know-it-all. I'm not saying I exemplify all of the above listed qualities, that I have personal, successful experiences with all (or any) of this, or will achieve it, understand it, know it, get it, feel it, be it, do it (isn't that my point?). But I am 23, so I do think I've learned a few things. And I do know how much more I have to learn. And of how much I have already learned that I have to correct. And of how blissfully naive I am. And that's my point. I am blissfully, lovingly naive. And I'm at peace with that.