My blog post for this week is a bit different than normal. I didn’t go on any trips this week, and my teaching schedule is basically the same. Here I am just happily living life. That’s why this week’s post is all about happiness!
I came up with my own happiness theory a couple of weeks ago when I found myself thinking back on my past before coming to Prague. I would think about college. I would think about studying abroad in New Zealand. I would think about working at Clear Channel. I would think about my old apartment in Rochester. These thoughts of the past became more and more prevalent in my daily life. If I planned lessons late in the library one night, I would counter by thinking about the “easy” days at Clear Channel when I left at 5:30 and didn’t look back until the next morning. When plans fell through with roommates or friends, I would think about the great people that I have known and how much fun we’ve had. When teaching got tough, I longed for the life of a student. All of my memories seemed so lovely in comparison to the difficult parts of my life here in Prague.
What I didn’t take the time to think about, was that each of these memories also had a difficult side. There were days in college that were filled with self doubt, boredom, and uninspired work. There were times in New Zealand where I felt completely alone in the world and so far from home. There were times at Clear Channel when I pined over ANY job except the one I had. But, when I look back on these events, my mind chooses to leave out those parts most of the time.
I look back on most of my life and think, “Wow. I was SO happy then.” But during my happiness revelation, I had to ask myself: was it real, pure, so-much-greater-than-now happiness? Or is that just the way my mind is choosing to remember things?
Of course I have been happy in the past, and of course I have had difficult times in the past. But the heart of my theory lies in the fact that the past is just that. Our memories are only distant pictures with fuzzy, warm glows. Memories are wonderful – the past happened, and you lived to tell the tale. But they aren’t reality.
Do not be deterred from happiness in the present by an unrealistic picture of happiness in the past. We do not have that picture now, and possibly never did. All we really have is each individual present moment striking like ticks on a clock. Those clock ticks are what we have to make happiness out of, and nothing else.
I recently shared these ideas with one of my roommates and another friend. Both seemed excited by the prospect that happiness only matters when you have it right now. Where and when do you think happiness is accessible? Share in the comments!