Unlearning to be Happy

Life’s a bit like the baggage carousel at airports. And think of us as the duffle bags, the suitcases, the backpacks, the fugly cartons and parcels all rotating on the conveyor belt, slightly squashed and then getting more comfortable with each round in our tiny areas. Sometimes we get lost, delayed or damaged on the journey but we always end up on the conveyor belt till someone picks us up and takes us onto the next one. You’ll notice that once in a while a bag falls off and bounces slightly away from the carousel?


I fell off the conveyor belt and for the past 2 months have been watching it turn and turn and turn. This year I finally took the time to do some things that were long overdue. I travelled the world, met some wonderful people, ate some beautiful food and had my mind blown over oh-so-many times. Since I’ve got back home and weeks have turned into months, there is this unseen pressure that I must now get back on the carousel and join the daily turn like everyone else. General consensus is that I’ve had my share of merry-making and joy and that’s been a lot by standards and now I should join the rest of the population; slot into my allocated space and quietly pick up from where I left and when and if the Gods-above are pleased with my good living, I will be blessed with some more happiness down the road in some 1 or 2 years time.

You see, I wasn’t raised to be happy. I was raised to be a good child. I was raised to work hard and carry out my work honestly. I was raised to be strong and help others. I was raised to do the right thing at the right time and I was raised to be a law-abiding citizen of my country. But I wasn’t raised to be happy. It’s not like I have melancholic parents but we live in a society where happiness is seen as reward for good work. We’ve taught our children that happiness is something you’ll get find when you reach point D.

<view from 6.05> One of my all-time-favorite scenes about definitions of happiness! 

Happiness isn’t a reward. It is a way of life and you have to choose it. Actually you have to work for it. It’s not something you will find by ‘going with the flow’. It is something you have to define for yourself and work bloody hard for. We’re meant to be striving for happiness for every day of our lives and not only on some pre-determined day like Christmas or at the end of reaching a milestone. We’ve become so intent in setting our goals and relentlessly working towards achieving them that we’ve confused ourselves thinking that we’re working to be happy. Sometimes success is just what is it – success. Unless you’ve taken the care for your happiness when achieving goals, don’t confuse your sense of accomplishment as happiness.

Many a time upon winning a tender, a successful completion of a project and triumphing a loosing deal instead of being happy and overjoyed, I was exhausted. I spent the last 12 years scrapping, fighting and building a career which I finally took a step back from, to see exactly what I was doing. I was leading a model life, I was doing everything I was taught to do. I was working hard but was I happy? I love (loved) my job but somehow along the line, I got confused that my job, my family were my happiness. They are part of it but they’re never your happiness. Since coming back, I’ve quietly observed how my roles and responsibilities have been taken up by others. How the gaps I once feared to leave have been filled. Sometimes our biggest fear is that things will fall apart if we ever stepped aside to do something for ourselves. It rarely does. Life has a way of adapting itself with or without you.


This year I’ve lived out of my suitcase and gave up things that in no way contribute to the air I take in my lungs…like manicures! While you could say I’ve learnt a lot this year, I’ve actually learnt to ‘un-learn’ a lot of things. I have unlearnt that happiness is a blessing that only a lucky few get bestowed with. It is not. It’s something you have to go and get for yourself. I have unlearnt that one doesn’t need to be part of the rat race. It is perfectly okay to fall off the carousel, pack your bags and see the world.

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Don’t bother writing resolutions for 2014. Exercising more (if you actually get around to it!) will only make a fitter you, not a happier you. So go lie under the mango tree and watch the clouds float by, still yourself and hear the roaring work of mother nature as she prepares the universe for the new year. And only when you can think of nothing else between you and the universe, think about what it is that you’ve always wanted to do but could never do because it just wasn’t done/you never had the time/you’ve got responsibilities etc. Write that down and may 2014 be the year where you find the strength to choose happiness for yourself above everything else.

5 thoughts on “Unlearning to be Happy

  1. “you see I wasn’t raised to be happy” and “We’ve taught our children that happiness is something you’ll get find when you reach point D.”
    You just took the words right out of my mouth!
    I never thought of it that way, but I wasn’t really raised to be happy either. I’ve been through a lot in my short 33 years on earth already and I was raised to simply survive and “succeed” (defining success is a long story, but I am not referring to climbing the corporate ladder and making the big bucks”. Happiness was indeed always something that seemed like a reward – in the end – once you reach your destination.
    I am struggling with this now days too. I live in a culture that is not generally happy. When I see my friends and family in Latin America, then I feel that I am in a culture where people are generally very happy. There is an electric vibe in some other cultures that you definitely do not have here in Germany. We just moved here last year too… but it seems like such a challenge sometimes not to let the little things get to you! Had I been raised to simply be happy, perhaps I would look at this experience differently.


    1. I spent most of last year living in Istanbul and then later traveling through Europe and India. I returned home with so much insight on life and thought that absolutely from that moment on, I would live everyday with my happiness in mind. But it’s so down right difficult! It seems to concentrate on happiness rather than ‘success’ is perceived as lazy…and almost selfish!


      1. It’s interesting when you mix culture into that experience 😉 I am not sure about Turkish culture and I have never been to Turkey but I am currently living in Germany and I find the culture here in Munich doesn’t necessarily scream happiness. Today is a gloriously sunny day and I just went for a long walk throughout the city. There are people in the park and out and about but everything is SO quiet. Spend a Sunday out in the park in Spain and you have a drum circle and live music and people singing and laughing! 😉 perhaps they’re just different forms of happiness but I do miss more “action”


  2. Another great read! Im definitely able to relate to the part where you step back and see that life isnt falling apart in your absence. Thats such an awesome realization! Choosing happinness freely, you go girl! although my realization hasnt fully connected to action, the mindset is sooo there. Youre inspiring.


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