Written by Jane Seung
“We all have an obligation to be happy.”
Hector exclaims as he comes to this life-changing realization, waiting for his flight back home after a long and eventful journey around the world to find the answer to happiness.
Of course, Hector is a fictional character.
Pshh, who is he kidding?
Anyone who has experienced the highs and lows of life would also know that happiness is a luxury, and one simply cannot have an obligation to do something that is at the same time a luxury. Right? Anybody, who has ever had a taste of happiness, would have figured out that happiness is fleeting. Even a newborn will slowly start to tense their teeny vocal chords in preparation for the long and steady scream the moment they sense that they are being lifted away from the happy place that is mommy’s warm chest and into the dark and dangerous place that is the tub.
So how then, does one go about dealing with those times in the dark place? Should one categorize the times in his or her life into ranks of happy and unhappy times? Keep the bad times in the bottommost shelf so that it’s completely out of sight until the next time you’re forced to reach down to make an addition to it?
Of course, as one grows up, his or her criteria of happy will change for the most part. I can say that the five-year-old me would generally have been made happy with only a bag of Haribo and maybe some colored clay. And with each year passing, I feel myself getting less and less hyped about my birthday, while the sight of Christmas lights still makes me as fuzzy inside as ever.
Sadly, somewhere along my twenty-two years of life I realized that I had trained myself to become more reserved whenever happiness would come trotting into life. Perhaps at some point I subconsciously converted myself into what I imagined to be ‘mature’, out of the duties of an aspiring adult. But more importantly, I’ve also realized that hard times don’t throw me off track as brutally as they used to.
I feel that as I’ve been experiencing more of the crappy side of life - such as getting over a heartbreak, getting rejected from a job, losing a family member, even being held at gunpoint - I’ve also been learning how to gain something out of them. As strange as it sounds, after all the emotions I am supposed to feel like fear, grief, and anxiety reside away, I find in myself a sense of warmth in my core. This has certainly not been an intuitive capability of mine. In fact, in the past, my immediate strategy to deal with bad times was simply to block the hell out of it so that life could continue happening. But soon enough, I realized that life could only happen properly once I acknowledged all that was happening to me.
When I found out that my dear mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer a couple of years ago, I was distraught. It was the first time I really learned that my parents might not be immortal after all, and I went from denial to anxiety to misery and back to denial.
I spent days crying to my grandmother, blaming myself for all the things I could have done to make my mom’s life better. I was in distress, and wanted the world to pause for a moment so I could mope a little while longer. But it wouldn’t. I saw that life just went on.
It took some time, but I soon realized that life would never pause for me, no matter what sort of crap it threw at me. I was also exhausted of being so miserable, so I rummaged for all the resilience and positivity I could find. I stepped out of my mess of a life, tidied it up, and walked straight back in. I had to force it at first, but soon after it permeated into my mindset. Instead of wasting my energy drowning in my sorrows, I put it towards living a spirited and healthy life, for both myself and my mom.
Although there were bumps along the road, this experience presented me with a chance to learn about myself at a level that I would never voluntarily have. I learned that I had so much capacity to love and to be loved. I discovered a resilience in myself that I hadn’t been aware of, and I was grateful upon realizing the depth of support and love our family are able to give each other. I had never felt so overwhelmed with warmth. Thankfully, my mom was able to fight her way out. I would not pick as the happiest scenes of my life the years leading up to her restored health, but I still hold a deep appreciation for them.
Not everyone would feel, or gain from feeling, what I have under such circumstances. And indeed, not everyone comes into this world with the same vehicles for happiness. But I believe that even if you have to rummage for it, there is something positive to be found in every situation.
The best part about this way of thinking is that if you struggled through the rough patch for long enough, the better days would eventually come around at a greater magnitude. You might feel enriched, knowing that you have grown, and perhaps even grateful for the things you might otherwise have taken for granted. The rough days might take their toll on you, but they make your pathway to happiness that much more meaningful.
Koch Film. 2014. Hector and the Search for Happiness. Hitflix. Web. 6 Oct 2016. http://www.hitfix.com/in-contention/exclusive-simon-pegg-holds-up-hector-and-the-search-for-happiness-poster
Hector and the Search for Happiness. Dir. Peter Chelsom. Per. Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike. Relativity Media, 2014. DVD.