After reading some of "Happiness: A History" by Darrin M. McMahon, I couldn't help but wonder how the concept of happiness is represented in my life and how it was represented by those before me. After all, countless people have spent their entire lives searching for this very "thing" only to have it elude their grasp.
To begin with, the commitment to happiness in Western culture is relatively modern. Although happiness was definitely well experienced before the 18th century, the idea that people should expect to receive it was rather recent. Long ago, people believed that the idea of attaining happiness wasn’t in their control. As Darrian M. McMahon put it, “It was easier and far more prudent to assume the worst and hope for the best, leaving happiness to the Gods.” It was only during the time of the Enlightenment when artists and philosophers decided to raise their voice. There was some sort of an intellectual shift and many people stepped away from traditional Christian staples, taking happiness into their own hands. Hence, the beginning of the pursuit of happiness.
On my four hour flight from Chicago to Los Angeles, I had plenty of time to reflect. Going on my first vacation in a long time, and thinking about how I had recently turned twenty-two, there were many things running through my mind. I had just come to the realization that (drumroll please) I was growing up; it hadn’t really hit me until that moment. Looking out a plane window, 33,000 feet above the ground, I really started to think about how I was one small person in a great big world. But even scarier, I was one small person in a great big world who didn’t know exactly what she wanted. I was on my pursuit to happiness, but what did that exactly mean to me? Was it a person? A place? A career? A goal?
I had been down this path towards happiness. However, it seemed like any time I finally had a hold on it, it slipped right through my fingers. After many trials and errors I had to teach myself happiness isn’t a trait; it isn’t permanent or long-lasting. Happiness is a fleeting, changeable state. Now, just because I realized happiness isn’t a constant feeling, doesn’t mean that I couldn't be a happy person or live a happy, fulfilling life. The reality is pursuing happiness is an action. It is an action that takes practice, time and patience. I learned to not be so hard on myself during times of weakness or confusion. It takes action to be happy. Happiness isn’t a person, place or thing. To be happy is the action of paying attention to your mood and nurturing your soul on the way to get whatever you want or be wherever you want to be.