This question comes up strangely often in my life, as I am the kind of person that skips right past small talk with people. I don’t truly care for what you think of the weather, nor do I care for the blasé filler conversation that usually ensues when two strangers are left idle. Why would I, when behind the shallow dialogue lies a mind different from mine, with thoughts and beliefs built up over their lifetime? I don’t understand the point in holding back, with time so fleeting and chance encounters with interesting people so potentially short.
That might make me somewhat of a forward person, but I much prefer to get right into someone’s mind, if they are willing, of course. I have always been fascinated by what makes people tick and understanding the human condition. What values they hold close, how they define themselves, how they perceive the world around them. What their idea of happiness is.
I find happiness itself is such a strange mistress. She comes and goes throughout your life, sometimes with clear reason, sometimes without. To me, how I define happiness constantly changes. Sometimes it is simple – win a game, spend time doing things I find rewarding, nurturing relationships with friends and with myself.
Today, happiness for me is about purpose. It’s about finding it, understanding it, and appreciating it. Not just your own prerogative, but in the things around you. Having said that, finding one’s own meaning is a rather daunting challenge, but one we are constantly questioned on.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“What do you want to study at university?”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
It starts right from the beginning, as children are handed often-gendered toys, and imprinted with what is perceived as their role in society. How we respond to such impressions over our lives end up showing who we actually are. Or at least, who we are at the time.
It’s the very flexible nature of our ‘self’ that leads me to look outwards for happiness. I know I am content in my self, but there’s a constant change in my experiences and wants that means I could never see myself becoming stagnant. So I look outwards. I go through phases, obsessions, and put all of my energy into them. Be it people, places, things, I will almost start to define myself with what I do. I seek out purpose, and give it my heart.
It’s not just about personal purpose either. Seeing those I cherish and appreciate go after the things they want is one of the most gratifying sights to see. Even if things don’t go as planned, just seeing the passion and drive within someone else – regardless of what it is – is infectiously inspiring.
To take it a step further, to me it’s not even about purpose within people. Clichéd as it is, I hold it very close to me to remember to stop and smell the roses. Nature itself is a testament to beauty in purpose, and too often we pass it by and take it for granted. The world is so balanced, factors on every level working together to further itself as a whole. It disheartens me when I think about the way humans throw this out of balance, and how much selfish destruction we cause to further our own agendas.
But with that said, everywhere you look in the man-made world someone has put effort into the things around you. Be it the sofa you’re sitting on, the game you’re playing, the instrument you have tucked away in your bedroom, someone put the time into bringing that thing into being. And for that reason I always want to uphold it. So I try to appreciate each detail, each choice that was made. I note the intricacies of the things around me, though only when I am not too distracted by the world at large.
There was one time someone wanted to throw a coin off the edge of a boat we were on. I became genuinely upset, which initially surprised me. I was mourning the loss of an object that had no emotion, no sentience. What I realized was I was mourning the loss of purpose. For a mere few seconds of entertainment, that coin would be left to bury beneath the sands a thousand meters below the ocean surface. After all the hands it had passed through, it would never be seen again.
I suppose that is a metaphor that I placed squarely on myself from then on. The worst feeling would be to settle, to be resigned to doing nothing, being nothing. Stagnant. So instead I push the other end of the spectrum, sometimes too hard. I actively collect experiences, as it were. I never want to stop feeling new things, however they may end up turning out.
I don’t think I’ll ever have a set answer for what happiness means to me. But for now I know I am content in not knowing. I will carry on pursuing the things I feel are right, and that will be good enough.