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After a four-hour road trip with no stops, everyone knows the unbearably good feeling of bursting out the car and finally getting to the bathroom. Peeing when you’ve been waiting forever to pee is the quintessential feeling of relief. Eating when you’re hungry or finally unhooking your bra after a long day gives an endorphin rush that people desperately crave. Some people do drugs when they could really just focus on the feeling of kicking off a pair of heels or making it up that last flight of stairs. Drinking a glass of milk after eating a s’more, handing in your last final, or finding your lost phone; it’s all just too good.​
Relief is just taking away of discomfort, pain, and anxiety. Sometimes, it’s the reassurance that it whatever negative sensation you’ve been having won’t come back. There’s the feeling when the Advil kicks in and your cramps go away, or when you finally throw up and you’re not nauseous anymore. Sometimes, the happiness you feel is pleasure at the sheer absence of something you would have done anything to get rid up. People who have given birth often say that the feeling after receiving epidural was the most potent relief of their life. As obliterating pain is finally numbed, you’re actually just returning to stasis, but you were in such a heightened state of terrible that you’re ecstatic to be normal again. The feeling that rushes through can only be described as pure relief, life-saving relief.

There’s also the odd relief that occurs when you didn’t even know you were missing something. Can you be relieved from a feeling you didn’t know you were having? Sure, often that’s what a first love feels like. It’s a particular sensation of newness and awakening, as you realize there is more to life that you had thought. Then, if that love goes away, there’s the despair and loss that you might now actively search for relief from.

Happiness is not always the same as relief. Sure, you’re happy when you step inside a warm house after being in the snow and you’re happy when the work week is over, but relief can have a desperate edge that happiness doesn’t. I’m not just happy when a panic attack finally abates, I’m at my most religious. Then, I am the closest to fearing and praising some sort of God because I am so thankful this feeling has gone away. Relieved. The two emotions overlap in a lot of ways, as most feelings do. I think it’s interesting to pay attention to the differences and how they feel within ourselves, as they can signify truths that we might not be conscious of. Happiness and relief are instinctual, and if you watch yourself carefully, you can observe your instincts. For instance, when your partner texts you back or tells you they love you, are you happy or relieved? It’s obviously not a fail proof way to judge your relationship, but it makes you ask questions. That is helpful to understand yourself and how you relate to other people.

People are complicated, and comprehending their emotions in an eternal trial of patience and effort. No one figures themselves out overnight. As someone who prides themselves on understanding people, I hate to admit that it’s hard to understand anyone overnight. It’s all about observation and introspection. It’s all about experience and living without over analyzing. Sometimes, you just really, really have to pee and when you find a bathroom, it’s like Christmas. That feeling doesn’t need to be thought through or processed. It’s just awesome.  

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Lily is junior English major at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. She comes from Rockland Country, NY, and loves being a writer and Marketing Director for Kenyon's chapter of Her Campus. When she's not shopping for children's size shoes (she fits in a 3), she's watching action movies, reading Jane Austen, or trying to learn how to meditate. At Kenyon, Lily is also an associate at the Kenyon Review and a DJ at the radio station. 
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