In the past few days, there has been significant news coverage about an actor who committed suicide. Robin Williams could not find his own happiness while making millions laugh.
In Fall 2013, Alverno College hosted a Community Conference with the theme, “The Art of Happiness.” I keep thinking back to that conference. It came along in a time in my life when I was not exactly happy or feeling my best, and it turned out to be a case of perfect timing. The conference was filled with various workshops and seminars, with leaders and moderators coming from so many segments – higher education, business and community organizations.
One of the key speakers spoke about happiness and each person’s ability/inability to define what happiness is for him/her in his/her life. Parents will say, “When my child grows up, I just want him/her to be happy” but they do not define happiness. (It is a vague term.) What would make that child happy? What the parent defines as happiness does may not be the same for the child, either. Happiness is different for everyone and only your self is able to define what it is for you. Is it rip-roaring laughter once a day or simply to smile every day of the week?
Discussion at the conference focused on the fact many people expect others to make them “happy” or a job should make them “happy” or a house/car/boat/etc., should make them “happy.” I do not think anyone or anything can do that for us. It also puts a lot of pressure on someone else to make us happy, and material things come and go. Happiness is an internal quest. We each need to determine and seek our own happiness – whatever that definition may be. Maybe it is just being content at a point in the day. Maybe it is a sustained period of bliss.
On the other hand, one might not feel happy at all for periods of time, and that is okay because we need the yin to the yang to appreciate those times of happiness. You may step off the happiness path, but do not stray too long and forget to come back to whatever it is that defines your happiness. When you hit rock bottom, there really is nowhere else to go but up.
To me, happiness is intangible. It changes from year to year, sometimes month to month, depending on the paths I follow. Happiness is our own responsibility. I cannot tell you exactly what it is that makes me happy, but when I have it, I know it. Today I am writing. I am happy.