Once, I was having a nice dinner with a friend, and naturally the conversation got deeper as the ‘hangry’ alert in our brains are put to stop… only to be replaced with a food comma afterwards. But that is beside the point.
As I was saying, we got to talk about something rather abstract. Both of us are foreign students from different backgrounds, pursuing different careers, but basically, we were pretty much on the phase where we were jaded with our efforts to fit in the society we are in, which brings us to the classic, yet totally not helpful questions: Why am I here again? Was I expecting too much in the beginning? Or aiming to high? Is it too soon to judge? If you are alone, all the abomination within you will just break loose, ruining your day. But because we were physically together and mentally on the same boat, well, I had no idea why, but it feels nicer knowing someone is there saying, “I feel ya, mate”. Although we do not manage to sort things out, at least it gets your mind off of it for a moment.
There was one particular issue which we spend some time pondering about. It was a simple question she directed to me: “Are you happy?”
Perhaps it is true that the simplest things in life that is the most extraordinary. Putting that in context, I mean that the question might be simple, but obviously, responding with a solid yes or no to it is no piece of cake. The first thing that comes to my mind by then was, “I don’t know really. How do you even measure happiness?”
“I mean, I am grateful that I get to become friends with new people here. I feel quite content physically because even though I am not exercising regularly, I am not in constant medication and I still can keep up with my daily activities. And financially, I manage quite well,” I continued, “But in another sense, I do feel a little disappointed with the whole academic experience, and I feel like I probably should study something else. I feel bad that I am not as fluent with the language as I thought I should be after a year of formal learning experience. I dislike the whole baggage of national representation which I am enormously reluctant to take, yet it seems like the norm already wherever you go, so I can’t help it. Considering all this, how can I easily decide whether I am happy or not?”
Initially she told me that somehow, because my immediate answer is not a “Yes”, it implies that I am not happy. Yet she seem to also take the point of my argument to attention. She brought up the discussion on one’s goals in life to the table, and that one usually measures their happiness by seeing whether these goals are achieved, usually one at a time.
In that sense, I told her that generally I have two goals in life; the immediate, short-term ones, and the long-term ones. These short-term ones may or may not be related to the long-term ones, and currently I am far from reaching the latter. The short-term goals are partially achieved, as they consisted of those that are mostly physical and trivial. In this case, I reckon the state of partial achievement of the short-term goals and the lack of any for the long-term goals do not necessarily mean that I am currently distressed.
Maybe it’s just because I am more near-sighted than visionary, or because I see happiness as an ultimate ideal rather than merely a mental state of one’s pleasant emotions, but I guess being “alright” is enough for the moment. Food, water, clothing, place to stay, books… and maybe occasional human company–just enumerating the essentials constituting a “fine” for an answer to “How are you today?”.
Well, emotions, even the positive ones, have always been difficult to fathom, anyway.