I’m a rising high school senior and therefore, have plenty of stresses on my back. The stresses to get good grades, good test scores, and soon, to get into a good college all while juggling the schoolwork and after school activities that make up the average high schooler’s life. And there are plenty of places to be disappointed. I saw my first C+ on a report card (though it was only for the final exam grade, and I still did well in that semester and for the whole year). I’ve seen SAT scores that are good by normal people’s standards but not good enough in the high-achieving crowd I like to run with. And today, I got my first ever AP scores back. One 5, and two 4’s. And I saw that, and I was mildly disappointed. It doesn’t help that all my friends are posting facebook statuses about the multiple 5’s they got. But still. I got good, respectable scores, and I was disappointed.
And thus, I found the entrance into the topic I wanted to talk about today: happiness, joy, contentment. All that jazz. If you look up their definitions, you find some really interesting stuff. Yes, believe me, it’s interesting. What’s interesting is that happiness and contentment are both defined as states of being, whereas joy is defined as a feeling. Because they’re all so similar to each other, they fall into each other’s definitions so that it’s hard to exactly define a single one by itself. And yet, here I am, trying to define happiness.
It’s actually really interesting. I was just reading the main article of the latest TIME magazine (yes, I’m a nerd, and I’m quite aware of the fact). It’s called “The Pursuit of Happiness.” It’s all about how Americans have been pioneers, searching for something bigger and better since we were colonists. Often called the American Dream, this quest has led Americans to do great things, like invent the telephone and get to the moon and such. But actually pursuing happiness, setting a goal to find it, often leads to disappointment, like me with my AP scores. In the article, it had some inspiring quotes, and I really liked this one by Eleanor Roosevelt, “Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively.”
And what I love about the definition of happiness, again, is that it is a state. And not only is it a state. And not only that. It’s “a state of well-being.” And some people think that happiness depends on the big things in life, like a good education and a good job and a good love life and a good family, etc. But some of the happiest people in the world are those who have next to nothing (though admittedly, having good relationships, unlike material things, definitely helps). The first thing that came to mind when I wanted to define happiness was: knowing that nothing could get better than this. And then I said to myself, What are you talking about? Happiness isn’t knowing that nothing could get better than this; it’s not caring if anything could get better than this. Happiness isn’t just an emotion; it’s a state of well-being.
Happiness isn’t built on the big things. It’s built on the little things. Like watching squirrels in the backyard. Or letting little fish swim around your feet (that was my sister today). Or letting a tiny praying mantis crawl on your hand (that was me today). Just little things that help you see the beauty and the meaning of this life, regardless of whatever is going on in your life. Because no matter what bad things are happening, you still have life. And (hopefully, unless you’re the lone survivor of some alien attack that destroys the whole world), you still have the beauty of nature around you as well as people to share it with.
Isn’t he just adorable?
(I got this picture from a very good friend of mine who generously let me use it for this)