Genevieve walks like a princess, talks like a princess and behaves like a princess. She lives in a lavish mansion, complete with a gardener, a butler and even a barista. Pink, white and gold silk are her choice of fabric. Her father tells her that he is a gardener and grows beautiful flowers that make people happy, but she never believes him; Why would a gardener have fierce looking bodyguards? Her mother tells her that she is an accountant for she keeps father’s money in check by exchanging them for anything from handbags to cars. Genevieve has never believed her mother; Why would an accountant not know how to read?
Genevieve best friend was Cathy. Cathy was from a humble family and never had much, yet Cathy was always happy to be able to wear the same dress to school. Genevieve has always been envious of her for Genevieve always had trouble being happy. She thinks its genetic.
Dad seems to have every thing, yet he always grumbled. He could pick up the phone and a helicopter would come to pick him up the next moment. Mum had so much choice, yet she was never happy about it. When she wants a new car, a convoy of new cars would line up for her to make her picking. Genevieve had such wonderful powers too, she only had to yell and what ever she called for would often materialize in less than an hour. She always felt like a spell caster. It was great fun, but she started to feel lesser and lesser satisfaction from all these.
So Genevieve decided to stay over at Cathy’s house for a night. On her first night at Cathy’s, she shared the room with Cathy, her 4 younger brothers and 2 younger sisters. She got to share the bed with Cathy and she was excited for the night was young.
Cathy’s house was not large, it only had 4 rooms, some moldy furniture and an old TV set that often blinked at you. Genevieve thinks that her room has more things than all of Cathy’s house put together and she smirked to herself. Dinner was a simple meal of pea soup, bread and some cheese; not like her usual foie gras, soup and steak. Genevieve wanted to ask for another bowl when she spotted a little brown stain on her bowl but she decided that maybe stains like these made Cathy’s family happy. As she sat in silence, occasionally replying politely to Cathy’s parents, she felt a wave of warmth as she watched how Cathy’s family laughed and talked about their day. Genevieve’s dad and mum never asked her about her day, they only asked if she has enough dresses to wear and enough toys to play with.
At night, as the siblings all went to bed and Goodnight-s were shouted across the room, Genevieve laid back onto the bed. It was too soft, thin and she could feel the boards beneath the mattress.
“Can’t sleep?” whispered Cathy.
“Yeah, can I ask you a question Cathy?” asked Genevieve, “How do you and every one in your family feel so happy all the time?”
“Hmm, I never thought about that before…I dunno…We just are?”
“Have you ever wanted to have more things in your room like beautiful dresses, pretty shoes and maybe even a flat screen TV?” asked Genevieve.
“Well Gen, I do get envious of your dresses at times you know, but you know we have 3 girls in the family and if one of us has a pretty dress, it would only be fair that 3 of us gets them too. Dad and Mum decided that the money is better spent elsewhere like weekend trips out of town into the country, or a run in the theme park…well anything that we can all have fun in. Dad and Mum value fun more than anything on earth. Don’t your dad and mum bring you out too?” asked Cathy.
“Well they do, but Dad’s always busy with work and Mum needs to entertain her friends. My parents think that buying more things can make me happier. Don’t you buy things too? If you want to, I could get you your dresses and a nicer bed too. I have a credit card after all.” offered Genevieve.
“Thanks Gen, but I like the satisfying feeling of saving up enough for that dress that I want. It feels so much more precious and I kinda cherish it more. Mum said that people are happy when they don’t learn to cherish what they have and credit cards make people unhappy because they get things too easily. Do you feel unhappy Gen?”
“Of course not! I’m so glad that I can get anything I want anytime I want. I’m as happy as I can be!” Genevieve replied bitterly while trying to smile.
“Yawn, thats good Gen. I’m so glad you came over to stay with us. Such wonderful memories makes me feel all warm and cuddly inside. I think good memories make me feel the happiest! Sometimes after buying the dress I saved up for, in time the feeling of happiness from it fades, but a memory is different. It is permanently happy in my head and I think that’s what makes me happy. Ok Gen I’m getting sleepy already, we’ll have more fun tomorrow ok? Yawn…nights…” Said Cathy as her eyes slowly closed and she started breathing heavily.
Genevieve was very bothered with what Cathy said. Was it true? Is that why she has always felt happy but only for a short while? That in all the pretty things that she buys, they all don’t make her happy because the happiness they bring drops in value after a while? Are things that we can see and touch really mean less than our memories that we can neither touch or see with our eyes?
Genevieve fell asleep and in her sleep, she dreamt of many wonderful things. She never realized that she was always happiest when she was dreaming.
*Story inspired by an article from the New York Times about Happiness on the 14th August 2010