I didn't used to believe in happiness. It was like Santa Clause for me, I kind of grew out of it one day and there was no sliver in hope within me that told me otherwise. Happiness was never a priority where I lived, it translated to doing well in school, being conforming to culture and listening to your parents. It was entirely about conforming to different social systems and the better you were at it the happier you were. But the formula was flawed and even as a child I could not see the happiness people talked about from those things.
People seemed happy when they bought a house, a car, or didn't die in that car accident. But that made no sense to me, because we were told that anyone can be happy, so why do you have to wait until you have enough money to buy a house or a car, or until you're almost dead. As I grew older materialism seeped in, taking over the definition of happiness, and I let go of the idea of conformity since it wasn't doing it for me. Of course people blamed my misery on the lack of conformity but I didn't buy into it. Along the way as the misery and pain seeped in, as the depression took over and anxiety made it difficult to be, I let go of happiness and all there was to it, the houses, the cars, and most importantly the being alive. For years I lived in a place where happiness does not exist, and life was not worth living for. As years went by I became content with my belief, and was even relieved, if this thing called happiness does not exist then I don't need to waste any time seeking it. And so I didn't.
Today is International Day of Happiness. And today, for the first time in my life I can be truly happy and celebrate this day.
Three years ago things were not great, but after some of the worst times of my life I discovered a world filled with joy, happiness, and inspiration. The sadness, loneliness and all the other emotions were there as well but there were two sides to the coin by then. I chose to be happy for the very first time fourteen months later, and spent the greatest summer of my life so far. But as with life it was not sustained since I still had some work to do, so by the next International Day of Happiness I was no longer there. I believed in Happiness, but it wasn't for me at the time. So today, for the first year it is for me.
I'm usually asked what got me there, what happened during those fourteen months to get me to that wonderful summer. I can't summarize the entire experience in one sentence but if I could I'd say that I chose to live, and along the way found myself and everything that had always belonged within me. Today though, wellness is definitely a priority but happiness is not. Happiness comes and goes for me and I will not seek it endlessly, it's one of those things that appears when you're not looking. What I seek is peace, to understand that the world is filled with joy and sorrow and it's all a part of our never ending journey that will take us on the grandest of paths and the scariest of turns, but in the end it's all a part of the ride.
So Happy International Day of Happiness, if you're not there this year that's okay, it took me 23 years to get here, and I can guarantee that it exists, and I hope that you can find your way here as well.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the co-founder and Director of Mental Health for MCL, An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of Life in My Days. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness wherever he is through his writing, workshops and speaker events.