This morning, as I was crossing the street to go to Starbucks, I ended up standing next to a homeless man while we waited for the light to change - him, with quiet resignation, me with foot-tapping irritation and impatience. He looked over at me. "Do you have any change?" I smiled, shook my head, and replied that I didn't. This was true, technically - I didn't have any cash on me. But it's hard to look someone in the eye and say that you have no money to spare when you're en route to buy a $4 cup of coffee. "Sorry," I said, managing to feel ashamed. "That's okay." he replied. Then, after a beat, "How are you doing?"

I wasn't feeling very comfortable at this point - being face to face with destitution will do that a middle class overindulged white woman - and I was staring intently at my left sandle. When he asked me that question, though, I looked him in the eye. "I'm doing well." I said.

"Oh, good," he said, smiling at me with a mouthful of unbrushed teeth. "Good, darlin'. You should be happy. That's important. It must be easy for a girl like you. Is it easy to be happy?"

Is it easy to be happy? In front of me stood a man whose very circumstance added unimaginable misery to his daily life. Did he wake up in the morning and watch all of us as we crossed the street to our favorite cafes? With our designer clothes and expensive shoes and highlighted hair, our college degrees tucked neatly under our belts as we headed for a job which doubtless paid enough to keep us safely above the poverty line. Did he see us as we kissed our doting loved ones goodbye, smiled our blindingly white smiles over our shoulders as we parted ways with our friends, chatted on our cell phones to our adoring families? Did he imagine that if only he had money, an education, a family, he would also be happy?

He didn't see the inferiority, the infidelities, the guilt, the pressure. The shoulds and the if onlys that a life of "having it all" leaves us with. The prozac bottles nestled in our purses. To him, just getting by would be enough. To us, there is never enough. We are a new generation and we were groomed to be insatiable.

But today, I felt like I couldn't let him know that the pain doesn't stop regardless of situation. Life might be easier, less dreary, but happiness is still always a lofty goal, just barely out of reach for most people. It's something to chase, and sometimes catch, but to hold onto it is tricky - we're often left grasping at air.

The lights turned red all around us, and the 'walk' signal flashed. "Yes," I said, with what I knew was an open and honest expression on my face even though I was very ambivalent about what I was about to say next. "It's easy for me to be happy. I'm lucky."

He nodded. "I thought so. You look real happy. Good darlin'. It's so important."

With that, he crossed the street diagonally and I crossed straight ahead, and went on with my day. I felt haunted by the white lie, and thrown by the exchange - nothing like a simple question asked by an intoxicated, mentally questionable stranger to knock your whole world off kilter a bit. I took a deep breath and did what years of therapy taught me to do - I pushed the awkward memory from my mind. I wish I'd had a goddamn dollar.