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The happy chronicles

Leila Green | Tuesday, October 2, 2012


What is happiness? Is it a job at a Fortune-500 company? A stable family? An expensive car? A double rainbow? Happiness comes in many forms. Where one person might find happiness from watching a marathon of “Honey Boo Boo,” another may be able to derive happiness from cutting hair, skipping rocks or doing derivatives. Considering the diverse sources of happiness, it can be difficult to establish and maintain our own.

Take a moment to ask yourself this question: “What makes me happy?” Too often we live our lives based off of what makes other people happy. This is no way to function. Sometimes you have to stop and think: “Am I doing this for my own satisfaction or someone else’s?” 

The external pressure to succeed often surmounts our need for internal peace, consequentially stifling our own self-fulfillment. 

It is often hard to forget that other’s opinions of us are irrelevant to our lives and personal decisions. If someone doesn’t like your shirt, the heavens won’t burst with flames and the time-space continuum won’t shift. 

If you want to dye your hair purple and move to Antarctica, by all means do so – you may lose all credibility and display a general lack of self-control, but if that is what is going to make you feel more whole, go for it. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t wear pants, but there are all these social conventions and rules and things like that, so luckily I’ve managed to keep my urge under wraps.

We’re constantly bombarded with things that are supposed to make us happy – most of which have a price tag. Material things don’t always equal happiness. 

Happiness usually comes from small things. We’ve all felt the sweet pleasure of flipping open a textbook to the correct page on the first try. A friend of mine is happiest when he does graffiti. Another absolutely loves the smell of Korean coffee shops. 

I would venture to say there are many more ways to be happy than there are ways to be unhappy. Think about it: the fizzy bubbles in a can of soda can make you happy. It is pretty hard to be genuinely enraged by bubbles, nonetheless tiny, harmless bubbles found in a cold can of sweet, sugary nectar. That very thought just made me happy. The word “nectar” makes me happy. The only conceivable circumstance in which the word “nectar” would ruffle my feathers is if it was used in this sentence, “Sorry, Leila, but we are all out of nectar.” 

I went around and asked people what made them happy. The responses were simple and enlightening:

 “House music.”



“Buffalo wings.”



“Spending quality time with people.”

“Helping others.”

“The Lord.”

“The sun.”

“The beach.”

“When everything goes my way.”



“When I’m drawing or painting, I literally feel euphoric. It’s the most amazing feeling.”

We may not all find happiness in these things, and we cannot judge someone else because what makes them happy is not readily apparent or understandable to us.

At some point in time, we have all pitied another person because of a perceived deficiency. Whether it is a homeless man sprawled on a sidewalk in Manhattan or a mom in the store with three kids in a stroller, one on her back and one in each hand.

Do you ever stop to think: “Maybe my judgment is false. What if they are happy?” In my own life, I’ve made false judgment and gotten subsequent enlightenment.

As I sat people-watching at a Fourth of July Festival in Philadelphia, I noticed a middle aged man skipping up and down the street cheering and laughing, completely alone. 

I immediately assumed that he was in some decrepit, lonely state. Then I really looked at him – the shine in his eyes, his genuine joy – and realized that this man was happy, nearly euphoric, and he wasn’t harming anyone, so why should I care that his actions were unorthodox?

Then there was the older man I met in Union Station in Chicago. He approached me to show off his new smartphone and found pure joy in showing me each and every one of the phone’s features for two straight hours. After this we started talking for a while and he shared that his company was failing and that he’d been hopping trains for a week trying to find work. Nevertheless, he was still content. He had managed to find happiness. 

We all want to be happy. Do not let fear stand in the way of your happiness. As long as it is not at the expense of someone else’s wellbeing – do what makes you happy. It is the only way to stay sane. 


Leila Green is a sophomore English major and Portuguese minor. She is also the coordinator of YES, a youth group for at-risk kids in South Bend. If you would like to get involved, she can be reached at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.