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Subtweet: (noun)
A tweet designed to refer to one very specific person or group without making the reference explicit. Often used to express anger, disappointment, or dislike towards said person. Common phrases include, but are not limited to: “Isn’t it funny when people…” or “Don’t you just love it when people…” The proceeding words very rarely express genuine love or hilarity.

I was subtweeted for the first time recently (or, at least, I think I was). I suppose the peculiarity of a subtweet is that you can never be totally sure about who it is aimed toward, and confrontation is most definitely not my strong point. Whether I deserved this passive-aggressive tirade or not depends only on your personal opinion—perhaps it wasn’t even aimed at me—but it hurt nonetheless. The offending words were the kind of modern-day venom you’d expect to see floating about on social media, but the sentiment that cut the deepest was a suggestion that the person in question should concentrate on being responsible for their own happiness. That, of all things, was what made my stomach flip angrily. It was as if I was 7 years old again and the nastiest boy at school had just tugged on my pigtails. Be responsible for my own happiness? Was their sentiment not just a given?

To provide some context, the past six months of my life have been some of the most difficult I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing. It has been one of those periods in which you feel as if your whole world is crumbling before your very eyes. I’ve nursed a broken heart, somehow lost a group of friends I’d become accustomed to spending most of my time with and found myself in a multitude of difficult and disorienting situations. It has also been a time in which struggles with my mental health have been at their most challenging. Whilst it has been an awful way to spend half a year, these emotions are not anything truly extraordinary or unique to me.

"The very act of being responsible for one’s own happiness is just that—our own."


I’ve been attempting to grasp why this particular tweet—which is essentially just a particular arrangement of words—bothered me so intensely. Perhaps the concept of being responsible for our own happiness is one that is held very close to our hearts. When life isn’t going exactly as planned, it’s something we have to fight for, and we often take pride in our ability to do so. I’d just spent six months fighting with as much tenacity as I could muster whilst managing to overcome a series of gruelling obstacles in the process. In my mind I was a warrior, and someone had just laughed at the size of my shield despite having built it from the ground-up. Then they’d encouraged a couple hundred of their followers to join in with the hilarity.

It was in the midst of this wave of panic (which constituted a little bit of crying and a large amount of worrying) that it dawned on me how ridiculous the notion this person had insinuated was. Happiness means different things to different people, as well as having a multitude of meanings to the same person during various stages of their life. Surely, then, the same premise would apply to the way in which we choose to be responsible for our happiness? The very act of being responsible for one’s own happiness is just that—our own. There is no possible way that anyone can truly appreciate or empathise with another’s pursuit of happiness when it has the potential to be littered with so many complexities, personal choices and actions which vary so hugely from person-to-person. My efforts may not have been obvious to anyone else, but that fact certainly does not invalidate them.

"Being responsible for my own happiness might simply amount to getting out of bed on a bad day despite a voice in the back of my head telling me not to. It could refer back to the day I somehow summoned the courage to speak to a professional and admit that waking up every day had become somewhat tiresome, and how the thought of consuming so much as a sandwich had me cowering in fear."


I realised that the suggestion had upset me so much because it was contrary to everything I had believed myself to have achieved. I had, as my gut feeling had told me, always been responsible for my happiness — the issue was that my expression of this had apparently been lost in translation. My attempts at retaining happiness may as well have been written in French and put in front of someone who’d only ever spoken Russian. Neither one person nor the one expressing such scrutiny could understand the other’s point of view, and really, neither could be blamed. I could no longer logically justify feeling hurt by the motives of someone questioning something they couldn’t understand in the first place. My armour, having taken a slight battering, was beginning to feel tough again. 

Being responsible for my own happiness might simply amount to getting out of bed on a bad day despite a voice in the back of my head telling me not to. It could refer back to the day I somehow summoned the courage to speak to a professional and admit that waking up every day had become somewhat tiresome, and how the thought of consuming so much as a sandwich had me cowering in fear. It is entwined within the efforts to make it to every single appointment since that moment, and in the disregard of the way my body trembled like a leaf every time.  It could be buying myself flowers for no particular reason, or calling a friend when my worries are running away with me – even if I feel like I’m being a nuisance. It’s coded within decisions that others didn’t understand or support, and even in the ones they did. It’s listening to Amy Winehouse in the bath for no other reason than doing something for myself. It’s forcing myself to start reading again. Most importantly, it is the acceptance of the fact that there will be times when we are incapable of upholding this responsibility on our own. Whether it’s experienced during the last half an hour of Marley & Me (never again), or an intense bout of depression, sometimes we are unable to bear that weight of things that would otherwise asphyxiate us if we didn't have the courage to ask for help. If I’d have been left to do all the things I thought would make me happy a few months ago, I’d either be six foot under or I’d be so underfed that, as my friend so tactfully put it, I would be able to ‘make it through a shredder without harm.’ 

When it comes to the responsibility of happiness it is, quite simply, as varied as the notion of happiness itself. While to one person that responsibility might manifest itself through the establishment of a new relationship, to another, it is the decision to end one. Someone’s decision to move away could be equally as beneficial as another’s to move closer to home. And, as I have found, one person’s subtweet is another’s personal essay. It really is irrelevant as to whether your decision-making process is understood externally or not, though the responsibility is always your own.