What is happiness?

Nhi

If you have lived long enough, you may not bother to read what the definition of happiness is from the perspective of a 19-year-old. After all, what have I been through to judge such an important portion of life? I haven’t even figured out my life yet. Furthermore, happiness is perceived differently because we are all very distinct individuals, born in different time, raised under circumstances that are related to events happening not following any particular scripts.

I guess you can put any answers in those dots

But, I still would like to offer my humble opinion of happiness, since I figure I will find people who think similar to me and get people to think about their lives as well as their own definitions of happiness. Also, I would like to ask myself, and others the question: “Will your definition of happiness change throughout the course of life? Or happiness is just one same thing for everyone at any ages, but expressed in different forms?”


When I was small, I never thought much about happiness. I knew how to laugh when reading Doraemon (a timeless Japanese manga for any children), feel excited when my birthday came and hope everyday that my Mother would fry eggs for dinner, but I never said: “I am happy”. Years later, when thinking about my childhood, I settled with a very serene mood, thinking: “That’s because you haven’t had any taste of harshness in life yet. And you wouldn’t sense the presence of happiness until you experience sadness.” Becoming older and more mature, I started to realize that it is more difficult to make friends. I mean, it is easier to have acquaintances because I have gained a good amount of experience, but it poses a challenge to make friends because why on earth are there so many different people from me? Especially at my age right now, I sometimes feel estranged from the world and that’s when loneliness comes in. I came to think of happiness as the negation of loneliness. Like, if you have a community that you belong to or someone to like or to hate, you are already more happy than many people who just carry on living with their soulless bodies.

But then you may object, because happiness seems to be broader and more complicated than that. Happiness should be composed of many things and a sense of belonging should only be one item in that bag. You need knowledge to know happiness. Maybe you should have a healthy body. Ambitions sustain your purpose of life. You also ought to balance between time for friends and family and work.

Do you have a balance in your life? If you don’t, your sense of happiness may be damaged.

There are some interesting ways for a person to pursue happiness that I particularly remember. In the poem “An Irish Airman foresees his Death”, the airman says: “Those I fight I do not hate/ Those I guard I do not love;/…Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,/ Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,/ A lonely impulse of delight/ Drove to this tumult in the clouds;”. He does not choose to fly because of patriotism, or hatred for the opponent. He flies for his own sake; he flies because he finds “a lonely impulse of delight” in the sky. Another quotation that particularly sticks with me is what Stephen King shares about writing: “Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.” If you are a writer, you will understand it well I suppose. When you write, you are in your own world and it is very difficult for someone who does not have the same occupation to understand why you do “weird” things that you do. Yet, no matter how odd you appear to another person, you still pursue writing, because writing is joy.

There is one source of happiness that I am more than ever interested in talking about. Today, while I was walking on the street and listening to music, an old woman standing at the bus door waved to me, beckoning me to come over. Her hands were on the holders of the rolling walker and she was having trouble getting off the bus because considering how old she was, she couldn’t bring the heavy rolling walker to the ground.

“Miss, can you help me?” she asks.

“Sure!” I answered and smiled.

Her request for help makes my day. Now, that may seem odd to some people and I was surprised too. But, it all makes sense to me now after contemplating a little and encountering another incident in the day. While I was walking down the stairs to take the subway, a middle-aged woman also looked at me as if she were looking for help. I took off my earphones.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Do you know where [name of a street I don’t remember] is?” she asked.

“I am sorry, I don’t,” I answered.

She stared at me, looked away and walked past me. Now, she could have very bad day and was disappointed in this college student who wanted to help but couldn’t. She was having no energy to utter any more words. But at that particular moment, I was let down too, because by instinct, I was hoping she could at least say Thanks.

Let me tie these two events of the day together. The second stranger I met today made me realize that one of the reasons why some people are so hesitant to approach someone and talk, offer help, and even more, express feelings is that they are so afraid of whether that person will return your kindness. Will they be appreciative enough to say Thanks, to be friendly back or at least refuse your help with a smile? The word “Thanks”, even though repeated so much in our lives that it becomes an instrument of politeness, should never be underestimated. The power it has on the feelings of another person can be enormous. However, the old woman who requested me to help her was very straightforward with what she needed, and I helped her, knowing that I am doing a good thing. In fact, I was so thankful that she asked me for help, because suppose she hadn’t, I would be very hesitated. I had some bad memories offering help to seniors.

I am hoping that readers won’t misunderstand and think I suggest that we should be kind and expect things in return. What I am trying to convey is: a) Helping others is a source of fulfillment and happiness. It assists us in stepping outside of our world and feeling better about who we are. So don’t be afraid of the feedbacks when you want to be nice, offer help, or express your positive thoughts about someone. b) It is very important to be appreciative of someone’s kindness and express it in one way or another. I mean, you do what you can. But, saying Thanks and smiling are things easy to practice and you lose little to nothing doing so.

Wow, I just realize how messy this whole blog post is. I really didn’t plan out anything and ideas just come one after another. If you read until here, I thank you and hope that I don’t waste your time.

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9 thoughts on “What is happiness?

  1. This post isn’t that messy as you’d think. Yes, it talks about a lot of different factors that make people happy, sense of belonging, ambitions, their work, or when they help someone. But it makes a lot of sense when put together. I like how you gave instances of your two experiences, and also the bit where you talk about the airman and writers. I think you’ve expressed your point very nicely. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for reading Srishti! I am glad that you don’t consider my post messy. And I also gave a quick look to your blog and so far love the posts that you wrote. And I am also a fan of Harry Potter! 😀 Thank you!

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  2. 🙂 Not messy at all, you had just turn there at the halfway. You have very beautiful way of writing, philosophical, I like it ^^
    What came to my mind of this that happiness is like a mirror (okay that was so cliché) when you are happy and smile, you expect others to act in same way. However, when they don’t, it kind of messes with your balance. Why should I be kind of others are not. Okay 😀 I lost my train of thought but maybe you get my point 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anastasia! Wow, even though you say that the analogy between happiness and a mirror is a cliche, I have never heard this interesting and very true analogy before. I like it a lot and will think about it more.
      Thank you so much for your visit and your time! You are such a kind person to spend time reading this long post and share your thoughts with me 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I suppose a writing instructor might be tempted to reduce the length of this essay to make it “tighter,” but that would rob it of its impact. By leading the reader through your thought process, providing contrasting illumination with the two anecdotes of your encounters with others needing help, you allow the reader to reach the conclusion on their own a moment or two before you formally express it at the end. Well done, in my opinion. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading! It is a long blog post so I really appreciate it. I agree that a writing professor won’t like this because it is too long and messy. But that’s the reason why I create this blog in the first place. Polished essays are great, but under different circumstances, writing under such pressure is not fun anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

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