So you want to be happy, eh? Piece of cake, youngster. Just get good grades and finish school, land a high-paying job, find Mr./Ms. Right, settle down, and have a wonderful family. By the way, never forget to always look great and wear nice clothes. Make everybody like you. No, make them adore you. Then you get to live happily ever after.
That was what they told me. And that is what they have been telling you, too.
But what if you get lost along the way, with no means of getting back on track? Or what if you stop taking that same old road and choose to take another? What if you don’t become what they want you to be? Does that mean you lose grip of your happily-ever-after? I don’t think so.
In case you haven’t noticed, our society in general has long been measuring a person’s worth using numbers. We are too often concerned with how much money someone has in his bank account, how much he makes every month. We measure a student’s intelligence by how high his grades are and by the number of medals hanging on ribbons slung around his neck. We gauge how successful a person has become by counting his investments, the real estate in his name, the cars sitting in his garage. We quantify beauty by looking at the numbers projected by a weighing scale, by the tape measure we wrap around someone’s body. (Our society has serious obsession over numbers. Yet, math is our least favorite subject. That’s funny. We’re kind of screwed up, aren’t we? Just putting it out there.)
We have been made to believe that life works like this, and a life lived in a different way is a wasted life. We have become like robots programmed to do the same thing over and over again. And those who choose to illustrate the bright twinkling of the stars in a pitch black night sky and the rustling of leaves whenever the wind sends its sweet flying kisses with the use of their paint brushes and pens, they are the glitches, the anomalies that mess up society’s big equation.
Because of what society makes everybody think and do, because of what society makes of us, the world has been seriously deprived of great writers, painters, pianists, performers, even cooks. Those who were born to become artists were compelled to count statistics, to analyze the stock exchange, to draw up business proposals, to churn up technical reports, to solve equations, to peer through microscope lenses, or to plod through books and publications on law and politics.
I am not saying that engaging in business, science and technology, medicine and the law will not lead to happiness. What I am saying is that being in those fields is not the only way to make it. You can be the richest businessman on the planet and still be among the loneliest. You can be the richest businessman on the planet and also the happiest. It is, most often than not, all up to you.
Happiness is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. It is not like a trophy or medal given to someone who has managed to become the best. Happiness does not work like that because your happiness is not something that someone else determines for you, and it is not something the rest of the world can calculate or measure. Happiness is something that is always inside you. You just need to make the choice to become a happy man or woman. It does not cost high grades or a six-figure income, and its worth will never be equaled by rubies or gold. Not even close. Happiness is priceless, and it is always free for you to take.
You can be happy in 10 years, next week, tomorrow, today—or never. And only one person can tell you when, where, and with whom, and that same person is also the only person to tell you how. Yes, though it be a cliché, that person is you. There are those who found their happiness in telling stories that will continue to live on long after they die. There are those who have become happy in retreating from the troubles of the world and living a secluded life in the mountains. There are those who discovered their happiness in the one person they chose to spend forever with, and I bet those people who have become happy by loving another rediscover their happiness whenever they take a look at the face of the person they love as they wake up each morning. Whenever we choose and fight for something we know we love, we can be happy.
And you? What makes you happy? If you don’t know where to start looking, stop and listen to the sound that has ever been so familiar, that soft whisper amid the deafening noises around—your own voice. Who cares what other people say or think? You cannot always be what they expect you to be. At the end of the day, it has always been about you, not anybody else.
Break away, find your wings. And fly.
Glory May Asahan, 18, is a third-year electronics and communications engineering student at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
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