The search for happiness is different for every person. For some, it may be instantaneous, for others, it will never be found, but for most, it will take years to find. For most of us, it is just like working out a muscle group; finding happiness takes training with results that do not show immediately. Just getting a taste of happiness can send people down the path of joy and contentment.
On December 21, 2012 the ancient Mayans predicted the end of the world. In the days leading up to this apocalypse, the world fell into chaos. All over the country, stores were looted, people preached about the end of times, and communities tore themselves apart. A wave of hysteria engulfed the world and brought with it those who would do anything to escape the impending doom they believed was certain to happen. During this period of unrest, I temporarily stayed with my grandparents.
First, I would like to say that I love my grandparents very much. They consistently act incredibly kind and generous, and never pass up the opportunity to help anyone in need. While they always appeared kind to strangers, they were quite discontent and bored with their lives. I believe that this unhappiness fed their desire for conspiracies and the supernatural. Once I watched a program about the moon landing, and my grandpa yelled out, “Don’t watch that nonsense! It’s just government propaganda.” When they heard about the upcoming end, my grandparents were wholeheartedly convinced that it was imminent, and they decided to get the most out of their time while they still had it. With three days to spare, they began their day by doing what they had always loved: sharing a cigarette. They followed that up by going to the beach and basking in the salty ocean air. In wonderment, they gazed at the infinite expanse of the ocean while it reflected the vivacious oranges and reds of the late afternoon sky. That night, they went to a bar and indulged themselves like they never had before. They drank, they danced, and they laughed until the sun rose. The next day, with very little sleep, they tried to squeeze even more life into what little time they had left. They went scuba diving to see the vast beauty of the ocean floors. They met new people and made new friends, and felt, for perhaps the first time in their life, like the world was beautiful. Finally, with much of the world collapsing around them, the last day came, and with it my grandparents began to ponder their purpose. They began to appreciate life on a much deeper level. They became much more introspective and found even the most minute detail of the world fascinating and beautiful. With this new-found appreciation of life, they entered the last day; awaiting the end they had been expecting. But suddenly, something odd happened. The world did not end.
My grandparents leapt in joy hugging and kissing each other with more passion than I had seen from them in my entire life. With unreasonably large grins on both of their faces, they jumped on top of me and began giggling, “We made it! We made it!”. I had never seen my grandparents with such a sense of overflowing joy. Soon after, I returned to Phoenix, leaving my grandparents in a state of contentment. Both quit smoking and decided to try living as they did moments before they thought the world was going to end. For an instant, they loved life, but this could not continue. They began to smoke again, to feel sad again, and life became just as unfulfilling as it was before. They held happiness too leisurely and let it slip through their fingers. When I went back to see them 3 months later, they were completely different from how I left them. They were as they had once been: bored and unhappy.
Happiness is complicated. I am not sure what made them lose that great appreciation for life, but I am not sure they knew either, and I believe that is where the problem lies. They were happy, but they did not know what was making them so. Faced with the threat of death, they found love for the world, but once this threat was erased, so was their passion. If they could trace back to what made them happy in the first place, and really dissect why this feeling overcame them, I believe they would be able to replicate it. They loved life because it was fleeting, and without those circumstances it was impossible for them to go back to the sense of euphoria they had previously. They tried to cut their way straight to the reward, to happiness, but without the prior dedication to finding happiness, they were lost on how to attain it.
In my grandparents’ case, happiness is like the best tasting sandwich in the world. A piece of bread is just a piece of bread, and a slice of meat is just a slice of meat, and the same goes with all the other individual toppings like cheese, lettuce and tomato, but these individual ingredients do not make a sandwich. Only when they are put together in the right order is the sandwich created. My grandparents were given a sandwich with no way to make it again. They were handed it and when they tasted they thought, “Oh, this is amazing!”, but without the recipe on how to recreate it, the sandwich was just as far away as it had been before. Luckily, the magnificent taste compelled them to discover how to make the sandwich for themselves. Years after the predicted end of the world, my grandparents reached a level of happiness that they had only felt in the days before they thought they were going to die. Getting a tiny glimpse of the possibility of happiness propelled them forward to a life of joy.
To counter my argument, some would say that getting just a taste of the sandwich would just encourage complacency amongst those who take a bite. Those opposed to my argument would say that this complacency is because people typically do not want to work for what they want. While that opinion may be true for some, in my experiences getting a glimpse of an outcome inspires me much more than working blindly toward a goal. If I had the opportunity to see how worthwhile all my work would be, I would become much more inclined to do whatever it takes to reach my goal. Seeing the potential of what can be achieved acts as an incentive for people to put the necessary amount of work in to get what it is they wish to achieve. In the case of my grandparents, they did not know how much they wanted happiness until they experienced it firsthand.
Eventually, my grandparents became content with their lives, and without the help of the end of the world, it never would have been possible. They enjoyed the finer aspects of life and became the people they wanted to be. Through years of introspection and work, they finally were happy. Now, they love life. Sometimes, it just takes a little glimpse for people to see how happy they can really be.