September 26, 2020
Yesterday I experienced joy, I think.
Joy has always been a tricky word for me. Maybe that’s one reason why I have a hard time entering into it: it’s fraught with difficulty. As a church person, it was always pointed out that joy isn’t happiness. They’re different, don’t you know? (An attitude sure to quash any joy still hanging around!) Joy is, apparently, deep-seated, not fleeting, it doesn’t arise from circumstances, it is a way of being. Happiness arises in response to situations, it’s shallow and can be faked. I don’t know whether I believe those distinctions. Have I ever experienced true joy, then? Do I really know what happiness feels like?
Here’s what I’m thinking about joy. Yesterday morning, I had a job interview. Interviews are generally in the category of not-my-favourite-thing-to-do. I was nervous. I had to lead the interviewers in an activity about culture; I’d made it up. I had to answer questions; I can’t prepare for all possible questions. Add in that I’m an introvert, that this was for a job I REALLY want, and you begin to get an idea of where I was mentally and emotionally. Once the interview started, I was okay, mostly. For a couple of the “think of a time when” questions, I couldn’t think of an example and it felt like I was silent for an hour. The activity seemed to go okay: I had gone over it enough that I felt comfortable presenting it without notes. Most often, after an interview I think of great things I could have said, excellent examples I could have used. I also can hear myself in my memory and think, “Why did I say that?” or wonder if I really answered the question. You know, the usual introvert’s self-doubt following an ad hoc, unscripted event with relatively high stakes!
What does all this have to do with joy? Something in me must have recognized that it had been more than okay, that I was pleased with how things had gone. I was most of the way back to my office when I realized that I wasn’t rehashing everything and kicking myself for missed opportunities. I wasn’t finding fault with every answer, or thinking I sounded stupid. I was giving people compliments in my head. To the guy walking along the path: “Fantastic beard!” To the woman cycling: “You’re looking great and good for you getting out to exercise!” To the person outside my building: “Nice shirt!” Without doing so consciously, I wasn’t just not beating myself up about perceived mistakes, I was feeling a euphoria that was spilling out towards others. Is that what joy really is?
PS I was offered the job and accepted it yesterday, too! A rather momentous day!