One of the signs of getting old is not wrinkles on your face and not arthritis around your bones, but reduced joy. If you can’t enjoy such simple things as snow or rain, then you are undoubtedly getting old. Make sure your children do not get old before you! Pull them away from their phones and laptops and do something that will bump up their dopamine level! The recent snowfall caused me confusion as my children didn’t express much joy about it. I threw a snowball at them and got my own in return. Once. I expected at least twice. After that, I decided to encourage a tree to play. I threw the snowballs one after another, trying to hit the same spot on the trunk. Sadly, the tree never responded to me, but that was okay too – I moved on.
“Hey! Let’s build a snowman!” I shouted. Oops, I did not take into account such a thing as individualism. Their snowmen turned out to be the size that could fit in their palms. I rolled three large snowballs but was unable to load them one on top of the another.
“Call your dad for help,” I told them, and they happily disappeared inside the house. However, it is not always easy to flee from an annoying parent. I summoned them back outside, and eventually, we built the poor snowman; but I had a feeling that I forced my family into this process. Too much internet time, I thought. If they want snow, they can always have the virtual one. Then, a sad revelation crossed my mind: people do everything virtually now. You can even build your own virtual family and go on a virtual trip any place you want. Thank God that we are still giving birth to real children and consuming real food, fulfilling our basic needs. Nowadays, social life, especially for the youth, is achieved on the comfort of a bed with a laptop. And of course, you can set any ambiance you like on your screen, but guess what? You cannot experience it with all your senses. You can’t touch, you can’t smell, and you can’t taste the snow off your screen. As a result, we distance ourselves from joy, which leads us to a lack of emotions, creating a path to anxiety and depression.
This generation knows how to write a perfect cover letter and build a stunning resume and how to communicate well through social media, following all the rules of a particular community. Yes, they perform well in front of their screen, but a majority of them have anxiety when communicating in person. I encouraged my daughter, “Call your elementary school teacher – ask how she is doing. She will be happy to hear from you,” or “Call your former co-worker. You used to go on lunches with her.”
“What will I say when I call? I feel awkward talking to people in person. I’d rather send them a message through Facebook,” was her answer.
And then, I dive into my explanations of how to start a conversation. You can start with “Hello Jennifer. How are you doing?” If she doesn’t recognize you, which is unlikely since you are not calling a total stranger, you can say, “Oh, it’s Jessica. I just decided to give you a call and see how you are doing. You were pretty helpful to me when you advised on certain things during our lunch breaks. I, certainly, miss that time.” I do not doubt that Jennifer will be engaged in conversation. Or: “Hello, Mrs. Schmidt. This is Kelly Brown, your formal student. How are you?” To better identify yourself you can refresh both memories, something along the lines of: “I still have the Claude Monet project in my closet, the one we won first place. Just letting you know – I appreciate all your hard work in improving my artistic skills. I will be holding a small event. Would you be interested in coming and seeing my artwork?”
If you are not sure how to start a conversation, your words of appreciation can always sail you out. People like when you remember their good deeds, and surely, no one likes to be poked in the eye with bad memories.
It would not be unreasonable nowadays to classify social skills as virtual and live ones. We pay a high price for technological progress – we have become emotionally indigent. Our experiences have become scarce, which causes us a feeling of insecurity. All of us want to be happy. We want to eat food that not only fills us up but brings us satisfaction and joy. You receive your portion of happiness throughout all the senses. Imagine now a freshly baked loaf of French bread. What emotions does it summon in you when you hold it in your hands? Wow, it smells so good! This is a beautiful loaf. The crust is so smooth and glossy that you want to bend it a little to hear a satisfying crack. Your taste buds become the final stage in this complicated sensation of happiness.
The well-known chemicals (dopamine, endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin) cannot shape your positive mood without your consent. You need to work for them. As they were evolved to promote a goal of survival, you must put some effort into steering these chemicals in you. As they quickly metabolize in your body, you need to work out your happy dose; and obviously, there is not much dopamine and oxytocin building up when you sit in front of your laptop. I never knew anything about childhood depression when I was growing up. Nearly 70% of my childhood I spent outside doing something – sawing wood, building sheds with my dad (since I was the oldest child in the family), shoveling snow and fishing, sometimes taking a risk for my life. Yes, it was fun. You got home safe – let your icy eyelashes melt by a wood burner. Then, you feel real and well-deserved happiness. The contrast drives everything. You can’t appreciate a warm spot without knowing what it feels like to be cold. You can’t grasp all the coolness of being on top of a mountain if you have a house up there. Happiness is a state of feeling novelty and enthusiasm, and it is not necessary to be something of a wow-effect and a breath-taking experience, but something that summons joy and increases your confidence in this world, because your confidence is the key to your survival.
Valda Taurus is inspired by stories of survival in extreme situations, whether it be a natural disaster or an inner psychological struggle. She holds a master's degree in sociology and a minor in psychology that complements her desire to be a judgment-free observer of people. On the path to becoming a writer, she completed an advanced fiction-writing course. 'Killing Your Best Friend' is her first novel in which she touches on the topic of destructive feelings such as guilt and self-accusation. Writing has always been her passion. As she says, "Before I learned how to write, I invented the stories in my head, or they just lived in my head, and then, I tried to guess where they originally came from, and why all these characters chose me to share their stories. I was never alone in my mind although often lonely in the world of real people."