As I don’t have change, I give more than the usual five meticais coin to a street boy and I can see happiness written all over his face. I am a curious girl and because of that I start immediately thinking about the boy’s reaction. He seems so happy! What can make people happy? How long will last that positive sensation? Maybe he has a sweet tooth. I imagine him buying two slices of cake and eating them on some quiet corner. Then it is over.
I ask to a twelve years old girl what would make her happy. She thinks for a short while and answers: “The Math teacher having a bad flu!” Her younger brother decides to give his own opinion: “Tell me a story and I’ll be sooooo happy!” A colleague at his side speaks of going to some beach with his parents.
I listen and take notes: free time, a little of attention and being close to friends and family seem key to the youngster’s happiness. It looks so easy to fulfil their dreams of happiness! Nevertheless, we deny them most of the time or worst: we substitute them for something giving us less trouble or taking us less time. There are so many instant happiness options around!
Another thing I could notice during my quest is that the young exteriorize happiness noisily, therefore our usual reaction is repression. We repress happiness, instead of teaching different ways of showing it.
From 12 on it’s a little difficult to find people with a prompt answer to the question: “What would make you happy?” Teenagers start to talk about money and material things. The exception goes to the girls because they soon start questioning their own image early: “I would be happy if my nose was a little smaller!” To be taller or thinner would mean happiness for a lot of people in this world!
Adults’ answers are not very different. The novelty is the tone of skepticism employed: “A new car for sure… The old one is giving me such headaches! I don’t know what to do!”
But if the question is formulated in a different way (Tell me about a moment of happiness?) the answers are less material and more similar to the ones possible to find in children: walks or travels with family and friends, special moments like a marriage or an anniversary, a family dinner, spare time spent with the ones that we love, a moment of closeness with our father during which we could tell him something kept inside of us for too long…
In the middle of my “special assignment” I was already convinced that there is nothing more subjective than happiness. I also lost my initial afraid that I could find someone who never had a moment of happiness. Does such a person exist? I don’t think so.
For old people the answer to the happiness question is usually health or some aspect from the past, but their descriptions of a moment of happiness are the most beautiful and touching of them all.
I asked myself what would make me happy now and I regret to tell that my answer is material too. Sometimes we are so predictable! Then I asked about special moments of happiness. When was I really happy?
For instance at 18, when I was walking back home from school, it happened an intriguing moment of happiness. It was very hot, I was tired and a little worried with exams. Suddenly, a breath of fresh air came from nowhere, involved me and make my hair fly rebelliously. I remember to think: ‘I shall never have another moment so happy in my life!’ But I did.
If I had to tell you why I have “moments of happiness” from time to time, it would be difficult to explain. That “first moment” I was walking alone. I had no particular reason to be happy, like being in love. On the contrary, I had just lost a boyfriend, the kind of boyfriend carrying schoolbooks, worries and reasons to make me smile.
I was worried because I had a difficult exam the next day. A month ago I had decided to change from Literature to Law. In order to do that I had to learn a new subject during a month and the exam was an unpleasant incognita! How could a simple walk home explain such happiness? Could it be the walk? Could it be enjoying being alone? Could it be the unexpected breath of fresh air? Could it be a contra reaction to the stress of exams (ups and downs theory)? I am not sure.
I had one of those moments of happiness recently. They happen in different contexts and always unexpectedly. I can be alone or with someone. It can be cold or extremely hot. It’s difficult to explain what I feel but for an undefined period of time everything is perfect. The exterior reflex is tranquility once the major changes are happening inside. It is not metaphysical or pure physical. I would describe it as a positive sensation, a feeling good about my own self. I don’t know if other people share the same experience, even if I suspect that this is happening with others members of my family too.
I’ve been trying to understand those surges of happiness for a long time and I came with an explanation: they can have something to do with a perfect heart beat mixed with other exterior gratifying circumstances. What I can say is that such moments of happiness are powerful and a great source of inner and physical energy.
And just for the curious like me, my exam was History and consisted of various questions and in the end we had to choose one of three subjects. I picked the Brazilian colonization and almost wrote a book worth 18 points out of 20. Just a small part of the merit was mine, since most of it belongs to my extraordinary teacher and journalist Carneiro Gonçalves, father of poet Sebastião Alba.
I was reading the above when I noticed that an information was missing: the first part of this post refers to my first assignment as senior journalist, consequently leading to newspaper editor.