When I was four years old and went to school, they put me in Mrs Caulfield’s class with older kids because I could read. Everyone else had been in school for a year already, and they knew how school worked. I had to figure it out as I went along. Sometime the first term Mrs Caulfield taught us a song. “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” You had to sing, and you had to clap. And I just sat there, thinking, as the song moved on to “stamp your feet” and so on, and eventually she asked me why I wasn’t participating, and I said that I was thinking about whether I was happy, and if so, how I knew it. And poor Mrs Caulfield, with whom I now have a great deal of sympathy, told me to just do it anyway, even if I wasn’t sure, because it was only a song. I joined in the singing temtatively, despite grave inner reservations. But I wouldn’t clap my hands. I didn’t mind giving instructions (“IF… THEN…”) but I wasn’t going to obey them if it wasn’t true.
I’ve acquired slightly better social skills since, but I’ve also thought about this a great deal since, indeed, since I was four years old I have thought quite often about the issue of eudaimonia, recognising and acknowledging happiness.
I was just making some plans around Worldcon with friends, and I just realised that this is the most organized summer of my life, in terms of knowing when I am going to be where and when and with whom.
It’s also shaping up to be the best summer of my life, in those same terms, so much of what I’m doing is so great, and with so many different excellent people.
And the more I think about it, the better it seems that I am thinking that this is going to be the best summer of my life when it is in fact my fiftieth summer — I’m going to turn fifty in December. I am making plans, and offering hospitality, there’s going to be the signing tour, and cooking, and beaches, and castles, and a British Worldcon, and Shakespeare, and art, and a trip to Italy, and spending time with so many amazing people — and it just doesn’t get any better than this. And this is my real life. When I’m not running round having fun with people, I’m home writing. And I love writing. This is so great. This is what I always wanted to do when I grew up.
I am so incredibly lucky.
Fortunately, Mrs Caulfield taught me how to express it.