35,000 Things For Your Heart To Feast On
It’s a serene Thursday morning and I am sitting in front of my laptop tapping on the keys. I was wondering what to write in my article ‘A story to inspire’? ‘A social commentary’? or better yet ‘A potential alien apocalypse’? Ugh, indecisive moments; a common foible of human life. I once came across an article that said, an average person makes 35,000 choices per day. Deciding what to write? That definitely is one of the 35,000 choices I’m making today. We stumble upon countless occasions to make decisions yet no matter the circumstance, there’s one thing we must always keep choosing: Happiness.
I was scrolling through my Instagram feed one fine day, when I came across this America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer moment. Being the jobless person I am, I watched the whole video, which made me then question ‘What in the world was I doing this whole time?’. That’s right! Go get your phone, google “Nightbirde at AGT” and you will see for yourself. On a world stage with more than a thousand spectators, a woman suffering from metastatic breast cancer performs a tear-jerking rendition of one of her original songs. The song was basically her life story put into words; the chaos of life, the drawbacks, and most importantly, fighting through all that with positivity to stand on her own. If that 30-year-old woman taught me anything, that would be “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy“.
Now I have to confess, this article is definitely not going to act as a ‘guide’, in fact, I don’t even believe that a person can follow specific steps to be happy. In my belief, happiness is a very personalized subject that varies from person to person. Your definition of happiness maybe the counter opposite of mine. Therefore, to me, a good playlist on Spotify can be as fulfilling as it is for a person who has just won a lottery. For me personally, a strawberry dipped in chocolate is all it takes. However, for you who are reading this, a strawberry probably wouldn’t be that exciting.
I’m not an expert on the study of happiness, nor do I know the chemical reaction in the human body that causes emotions and feelings of happiness but let me share with you my idea of happiness. Not too long ago, I first started becoming hyper-aware of what my idea of happiness was following an incident I once saw on the road.
It was April of 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic had numbed the senses of people across the globe. The mesmerizing effect caused by the Sinhala Tamil New Year spirit wasn’t very visible this time around, or at least I thought so, until I stepped out to visit my aunt. On the way back home from her place, it was close to midnight, and I saw people playing with fireworks on each side of the road. The sky was filled with fiery droplets of gold sprinkles, and the ground with gold sparkles that went round and round. What caught my eye amidst this brilliant chaos, was a shabby hut in a corner of the road. A middle-aged woman was sitting on a chair, with a child sitting on the ground between her legs. Though it was a cold night, the boy was wearing nothing but a trouser as he lit up and threw a ‘Bambara chakra’ to the ground. As the tiny instrument threw sparks of fire while it danced in a circular motion, I saw the child squeal with happiness. The woman, who was most probably his mother, was looking at the child and her eyes were sparkling even brighter than the fireworks.
Whenever things don’t go the way I expect them to, I’ve thrown tantrums, and there were times where I felt happiness was nothing but a mere illusion. Indeed, my teenage years were an emotional rollercoaster (Well, I suppose that’s one hectic period for any human being). The moment of epiphany came with the squeal of the child and the glistening eyes of the woman next to him. In each other’s warmth, they have found happiness.
If I recall another instance that moved me towards an epiphany in life, that would be the sudden passing away of one of my closest friends. I had been friends with her for over 8 years and not once had I seen her being grumpy. She was the most cheerful, optimistic, and passionate soul I’ve ever met in my life. All it took was one fatal car crash, and she was gone. At 20 years of age, she had to throw 20 years’ worth of sacrifices and efforts she had made for education, for her passion for dancing, and her search for happiness in life.
“Get a high paying job! You’ll be happy.” “Get more marks than him! That’ll feel good!” “Forget everything and smile!”
Our surroundings are filled with these voices. There are people who earn money by telling people how to be happy, what steps they need to follow, and more. I’m pretty sure my friend followed all those steps too. However, the reality that is overlooked to a great extent is that one must find his or her own happiness. Polonius in Hamlet once said, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day“. Be true to yourself and define happiness in your own way. Who knows, forgetting everything and smiling may not be the key, just as following a dream designed by another may not do the trick. It is you, and only you, who can write your destiny.
On the stage when Nightbirde sang “I was a stick of dynamite, and it just was a matter of time” she spoke out about her 2 percent chance of survival from cancer. It was inspiring to see her holding onto that 2 percent. This is exactly what I mean when I say, keep choosing happiness. Whether your chance is 90 percent, 5 percent, or 0.001 percent, keep holding onto that.
Life is full of highs and lows anyway. If you can hold onto that positive percentage even during your lows and notice the beauty even in the littlest things, finding your way out of the negativity won’t be as hard as you think. We are all a little lost in life, and a seemingly “I-got-it-all-together” person may be the one who needs help the most. Don’t let that smile on one’s face fool you.
It’s okay to be lost, it’s okay to have breakdowns, and it’s okay to not have a freaking clue about what to do in life. There may be deadlines for your assignments, but there are no deadlines for life’s accomplishments, that we know of. Your degree, marriage, the need to find a job, none of these have a deadline. Remember those 35,000 choices you will be making per day? Keep choosing what makes you happy all 35,000 times. Still, if it’s direction and agency that you seek in life, why not pick one or two out of those 35,000 moments you felt happy each day and follow through?
– Rtr Dinithi Athulathmudali
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