Happiness is a choice you make in hard times.

Another New Year, and I’m entering it with even more trepidation than the previous two. 2020 was a bad year, what with the US Election, the Global Pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse. It was a year of upheaval. We approached 2021 with joyful anticipation, hoping the end of the year meant the end of the bad.

It did not.

I think the lesson we all learned early in 2021 was that catastrophes don’t recognise calendars. They run for as long as they can regardless of clock, calendar or season. The Covid pandemic was just the first domino to fall, but it set off multiple chains of events. The global supply chain broke down in multiple places. Almost everything we use is manufactured in China, which has been in and out of Lockdown more than any other country. Manufacturing was disrupted, shipping was disrupted, we all learned to shop with a Plan B in mind. After years of living in an ‘On-Demand, Next-Day-Delivery’ market place, consumers had to learn that they couldn’t always get what they wanted. Add to that, we had to wear masks in public; vaccines, while not required, were HIGHLY recommended. Social gatherings were limited, things had to be Pre-Booked. We all had to accept some personal inconvenience for the greater good.

I would like to say people took it with grace, but that would be a Lie. People lost their freaking minds and 2021 began the Age of the Karen. (We saw the behaviour in 2020, but in ’21 they finally settled on the name. And the look.) It was a rough year, we were all fed up with everything, but the Karen’s would take out their frustrations on service and retail staff or unsuspecting bystanders. The sad thing is, I don’t think it made them feel any better, it just made others miserable too. It was the year of Entitlement.

As 2022 dawned, I think the most we all hoped for was things to not get worse. Omicron emerged at the end of ’21, a super contagious variant of covid guaranteed to hit everyone eventually, and we entered the new year with covid fatigue; either because we had the virus and complete exhaustion that came with it, or because we were just so sick of dealing with it. 2022 gave us the Hottest days ever in the UK, Europe half on fire and half flooded; the Russian Invasion of Ukraine in February, which Putin expected would take 3 days but still rages on 10 months later. The war and the climate crisis come together to give us the Energy crisis, the food supply crisis, the refugee crisis and, of course, the Cost of Living crisis.

Here in the UK, we got to see just how good our government is at creating chaos, and just how bad they are at managing it. The energy crisis is worse here because the Tories lifted the cap on what energy companies could charge. The Cost of Living crisis is worse because the Tories have kept public sector pay low with 10 years of below inflation wage increases, and minimal increases to minimum wage in the private sector. Then Liz Truss came along, resurrected the Vampire that is Trickle Down Economics (as it sucks the life from 90% of society), tanked the British Economy and put the Pound into Freefall. Their answer to the Refugee crisis is to send refugees to Rwanda. Their answer to calls for a general election is to implement voter ID laws that disenfranchise younger voters.

They have made it clear that in this time of crisis, we cannot look to our leaders to guide us, help us, or even sympathise with us. 2022 has been a year of Enlightenment. Now we know.

We know the current government is only interested in continuing their own power. We know that Corporate CEO’s are only interested in increasing profits rather than growing the business. The Rich are only interested in getting richer. None of them are looking out for the rest of us.

We have to look out for ourselves. It’s already started. Almost every Union in the UK is either on strike or voting whether to go on strike. There is a staffing crisis in retail and hospitality because people refuse to work in low respect jobs for wages they can’t live on. People are refusing to do overtime, and are valuing a work/life balance. People are working to live, rather than living to work.

Every aspect of our lives right now has the word Crisis attached to it. Economic, healthcare, energy, food supply, housing, employment, Cost-of-living, Cost-of-everything … Crisis. It’s a dark time.

So we have to make our own light. We have to find the things that make us happy and enjoy them to the full. Whatever it is that brings a little joy to your life, do it. Reading, Jogging, rock-climbing, anime, theatre, birdwatching, stamp collecting, fanfiction; whatever makes you happy without hurting anyone else. Find it, Do it, Share it with others. And if you’re not sure what makes you happy, find joy in exploration. There’s something out there for everyone.

Happiness is a choice you make in hard times. However much the current crisis takes from you, you will always have that choice. And sometimes it will be difficult. Misery is easier, it’s passive. It’s everywhere and it can wash over you. Happiness may take effort. It may take an active choice. And it may seem futile sometimes. But it’s worth the effort.

It doesn’t have to be big. In fact, it’s better to find happiness in the small things; a good book, a funny joke, a cup of tea. In the words of Arthur Shappey “You’re hardly ever blissfully happy with the love of your life in the moonlight. And when you are, you’re worried it’ll be over too quick. But the small things, there’s loads of those.” And no one can take them all away.

So here’s my wish to everyone for the new year, in the words of a far better writer than I.

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” Neil Gaiman

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