I Am Only as Happy as I Decide I Am: Standard Yield versus Maximum Fulfillment

I’ve got this friend. We all have this friend, I’m sure, but I have one too and this is about me right now.  This friend of mine is the kind of person who is friends with everyone. And not just good looking people who have time shares in Palm Springs, because how hard is it to be generally favorable when you’re looking at an 8 handicap and poolside Mai Tais? So when I say she’s friends with everyone, that includes those of us who maybe are not the best version of ourselves yet, or maybe we haven’t figured out what that is. It’s actually numbingly impressive, because out of the gazillion (that’s an approximation) people she knows, so many of  them have fundamentally changed her life in some profound way. That’s just incredible odds.

Anyways this friend of mine, on top of distributing nonpartisan companionship, is always unbelievably giving, immeasurably courteous, and doesn’t veer towards unsavory romantic entanglements. Actually one time she broke up with a dude and he drove his car into a concrete kiosk, but that’s another thing for another time. Despite automotive misadventures, I have always wondered how she continues to create lasting camaraderie’s and honest engaging relationships, consistently and continually. By law of probabilities, she should have become entrenched in some ugly friendships by now. You know, the kind where someone forgets your birthday or whatever and you want to be the bigger person so instead you quietly spread a rumor that they still live with their parents and Starbucks makes them gassy.

So, a while ago this friend of mine set me up with this one girl, and it worked magnificently, or so I thought at the time. This girl was intelligent and cleaned up real nice. To make a long story short things didn’t work out, most likely because of the voice I make when I see tiny puppies, but who knows for sure; We all thought the Star Wars franchise had ended for good but here I am, crying by myself in my T-16 shooting womp rats.

After the breakup, this friend of mine mentioned my ex could have been “The One”. Her perspective, she explained, was that all relationships¾romantic or otherwise, were not static encounters. No two human beings fit perfectly, or are ‘destined’ for lifelong companionship. Through diligent effort and compromise, any combination of people can function harmoniously, given enough time and more importantly, enough patience. “The One” was merely a way of saying, “This is a very simple compromise, as opposed to a very arduous one,” or maybe, “This compromise will result in maximum fulfillment, as opposed to a standard yield.”

Whether I (or you, for that matter) agree with this friend of mine is irrelevant. To be honest, you can believe a person out there exists for you, and you alone. Sometimes I think that, but then I remember that Katherine Hepburn is dead and I need to get over it. While we’ve touched on the subject though, have you ever seen ‘Suddenly, Last Summer’? I mean, I’m not often into older women but sprinkle Montgomery Cliff and add a sprig of incestuous latent-homosexuality and I’m on board and so should you.

But getting back on point, what is most important about this friend of mine’s “AnyOne” theory is that it can be extrapolated to many facets of our lives.

For instance, I really hate horseradish. I mean to say, it’s real bad. I have only returned a dish in a restaurant once for horseradish-related reasons, and I sent it back and subsequently refused to eat anything else, including the ceviche which I heard was amazing, in fear of clandestine horseradish. And I continued to operate in that mindset for many years, believing that in a room with horseradish alone, I’d either destroy it, or I’d be destroyed. Then one day, I accidentally ate a beef dish braised in horseradish, and it was unlike anything else I had ever tasted. I practically licked the plate, which is both uncouth and much harder to maneuver than you think. 

I mean to say, my view was not absolute, and instead I lived inside a generalization. And really, we all do it in one form or another. You really don’t look fat in horizontal stripes. I mean, sometimes you do, but don’t not buy that super cute blouse because it’s bulky stripes. And you really don’t hate politics. Well, tax law can get really boring. So I can understand if you really don’t want to talk about that I guess. And you also don’t understand and demean all country music. I mean, maybe statistically it’s possible, but not really. And I’ve been known to sing Garth Brooks in the car, so if you really do dislike it all, then maybe you should ride with this friend of mine instead. She definitely won’t make you destroy a concrete kiosk.

Decisions like these are binaries, and those are for computers and probably other things I’m not smart enough to understand. Binaries pigeonhole us into making rash decisions, where we sacrifice maximum fulfillment for a standard yield. 

Put another way, absolutes rarely exist in this world, and your views hold only as much weight as you decide they do. This friend of mine creates lasting friendships on individual terms based on love and not personal satisfaction, because every interaction is unique in their own way. And by doing that, she doesn’t miss out on the extraordinary people that she would otherwise exclude herself from. Like me, FYI.

This friend of mine essentially altered how I perceived others and myself, because instead of weighing options in variables of ‘good’ or ‘bad’, I instead understand them as ‘what ifs’. In this way, I try to be as good of a person as I can be, even though I haven’t been to Palm Springs in years. 

Each day I wake up and tell myself that I am only as happy as I decide I am, that someone is as beautiful as I tell myself they are, and that I really don’t hate horseradish all that much. And when it comes to standard yields verses maximum fulfillment, that’s all we can do I guess. Because you never really know who’s going to be sitting next to you, enjoying horseradish-braised Beef Bourguignon, waiting to fundamentally change your life.

Columnist Trenton Keith is a writing and pop culture enthusiast. He's also a sarcastic humorist, a dismal satirist, and frequent user of non-sequiturs.

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