What defines happiness for you? Is it an entertaining movie? A relaxing vacation by the beach? Spending time with that special someone? A porterhouse steak, medium rare, with a side of vegetable blend? A good book? Have you ever noticed that some individuals are just happier than others? Throughout my life I have attempted to make myself choose to be a happy person, but I will admit, sometimes it is much easier than normal.
A few weeks ago I took a position with a new employer and spending quite a bit of time away from home. I must admit, I enjoy it. It’s me, the car, my music, annoying drivers, and no.one.else. Just a few weeks ago I visited the St. Louis Arch by myself. I realized that I hit a new low when they forced me to get my picture in front of the arch, just me. HA! I have become “that guy”. But I digress. I’ve attempted to read a book a week while I’m on the road, to try and combat the downtime that I have when I’m not studying with school or swimming.
Last night I was in Urban Outfitters, a clothing store that caters to that hip-young generation, one that I am far from being apart of. If any of you know me, you realize that my sense of “style” is somewhat lacking. I went through the clothing racks, receiving weird looks from those around me. I wasn’t fooling anyone. However, I do enjoy the plethora of books that that they have at their disposal. Books such as: “Things I Want To Punch In The Face”, “Understand Rap”, “Unbored: The Essential Guide To Serious Fun” or even a sacrilegious favorite,”Dancing with Jesus: Featuring a Host of Miraculous Moves”. But this day, as I was going through the books, giggling until I had tears running down my cheeks, I decided to pick up two books entitled, “I Hate Everyone” and “Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World”.
According to the book “Happy”, “everyone’s level of happiness is about 50% genetically determined (your ‘happiness set point’), 10% comes from external factors, and the rest comes from how we perceive our circumstances”. I would say that for the majority of my life, I was able to make the best of any circumstances that came my way, and be happy, or better yet, joyful. For a while, I lost that, and I’m just now learning to pick that back up.
Sometimes we allow others, those external factors, to determine the level of happiness that we experience. Just last week a friend called me talking about their douchebag of a boyfriend and how they didn’t attempt to bring happiness into her life, but instead just brought turmoil, pain, suffering, and a broken heart. My response, which is always easier said than done, “move on, and find someone who appreciates you for the person that you are”.
The majority of Americans have our needs met, and even above and beyond that. I probably have made more money this past year than I have the past four years combined. More possessions, trips, great food, and activities, but the happiness factor just isn’t there. We let our circumstances dictate our happiness.
I wish happiness for everyone. Honest. Those I hate, those that have done me wrong, mistreated me, and especially those who have loved me. But I refuse to continue to allow the actions of others to determine how “happy” or “unhappy” I am. Keith is a local homeless individual who lives along the White River. His living conditions include a woodfire stove, enclosed tarp-tent, and a king-sized mattress (which stinks with mildew).
Last week I picked Keith up one morning for breakfast, and that particular morning I was feeling pretty low. I must admit, I was ticked as the morning went on, because Keith was happy. A fifty-five year old homeless man, who, with the exception of a cat and dog hooked to a leash, was all alone. What does he have to be happy about? His business went bankrupt due to the economy, wife left him, and left him with nothing. Not gonna lie, suicide would be looking pretty good. But he was happy.
During breakfast I asked Keith, “what do you have to live for?” and his response startled me…”I love life. I love nature and the beauty that comes with each day”. Now here is a man who makes the most of his circumstances. We had a good time, I dropped him off, and then immediately sprayed down my car with Lysol. (don’t judge me, I bought his breakfast).
I’ve said all of this to say, find what makes you happy and if there is something or someone out there who brings more turmoil than joy, then find someone else who will. Each and everyone of you deserve happiness. Search for it. Find it. Embrace it. Love it. And treasure the moments that it brings.