Find Your Happiness

Ariana Patalinghog, Staff Writer

Hey you! Let’s talk about happiness because, well… I’m not happy. Or I wasn’t not too long ago. What I can take away from distance learning: Happiness can never be achieved completely alone–nor  through artificial relationships. 

With a burning passion I absolutely DESPISE being in isolation through distance learning this school year because I felt totally blocked from making personal connections with others. Although some of us are content with it, I’m sure overall we prefer being together in person instead of socially isolating ourselves completely from others. 

I know that some of my classmates enjoyed the change of pace, thrived even. There are in fact, people who did better in school because they were able to focus on one thing at a time without the additional worries they faced about the judging eyes of others–about clothes, their friends, their choice of music, for example.  Others were easily able to continue life as normal without the need to confide in others often. However, that doesn’t mean they have gone completely without human contact. Perhaps it must be part of our human nature to interact with others; like the wind is whispering, urging us to socialize. 

The relationships we share with others really is a precious thing and something that we often associate with happiness. Thinking back, the last time I talked to an acquaintance in person was a year ago, it was about how school was so boring yet exciting; those conversations bring me nostalgia. During quarantine I was brought to the realization even those ‘annoying’ daily small talks about the pop quiz in chemistry or the homecoming parade really made my day and kept me constantly motivated. 

  Since last March, it’s been a long struggle to find motivation to do well in school and life– up until recently, when I was able to connect with a few new friends online. In one of my classes during a breakout room discussion we agreed to make a groupchat to update each other on assignments. From there, one person invited all of us to an online platform to partake in a casual social discussion. Let’s just say it was the most fun I’ve had in awhile and we had a lot more long and frequent chats about our lives afterwards. These new friends are ones I’ve made for the first time in a whole year. 

Being a socially extroverted person, I usually meet and bond with a lot of people during a normal year. I’m not regularly active online, so adjusting to an online-based life was difficult. My new friends encouraged me to talk more to others online, we established fun workout plans and things to help me stay motivated. Before, I had no hope of accepting isolation with not many people to contact. But, when these new strangers stepped into my life, I found myself basking in a ray of hope.

I can clearly remember the adrenaline rush I would get from cracking nonsensical jokes one after another with my peers and finishing an assignment minutes before it was due in the next class. That was what ‘everyday’ was to me. Quite frankly, I’ve taken those usually normal routines and memories for granted. I would tell myself everyday that everything will return back to that ‘normal’ but it still hasn’t. It took an entire year to accept that this was a new ‘normal,” that this is my life now.

Back to the present, I’m doing a lot better now that I’m seeing my friends more in person through hybrid scheduling, and we are counting on even more students going back to school. I started taking care of myself physically and mentally: exercising frequently and expressing my emotions instead of holding them in. Naturally, this change in my mindset and lifestyle has allowed my motivation to shoot up and has given me the opportunity to un-isolate myself and be more, well, happy.

Happiness is important, happiness is necessary, and happiness keeps the world turning. If we are constantly isolated in our little spaces, it will make us anything but that. There’s always time to start finding your happiness; it’s never too late. This is your sign to get up, get out, and FIND your happiness. 

When we find ourselves in a room full of strangers–people you don’t know and don’t really care to get to know–it’s impossible not to acknowledge the tension. It is awkward and uncomfortable because we have no connection to these people whatsoever. It’s that feeling you’ve definitely experienced at least once. Some prefer to surround themselves with strangers they have no intentions of bonding with. To me, these are classified as artificial bonds.

To be surrounded by people constantly, but without a real connection to them is a different type of isolation. Surely, you may be able to fit in an awkward ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye,’ but that’s not really how we bond with people. 

The situation itself creates an environment where  we are trying too hard to act ‘natural’ constantly. Simply being around strangers is easy in person but once they leave, one would be overcome with feelings of despair and loneliness. These are truly artificial bonds used to pass the time, which are even more noticeable online. 

Social distancing itself allows a sort of artificial nature. It is the same routine, but it consists of experiencing the process of life without the excitement and everything in between. We log into class everyday, not knowing what some of our classmates look or sound like. Life online is much like a game.  You pass the levels one by one, unaware of stories of monsters you may defeat, and you don’t think much of it. There’s always something to do, but what happens after you accomplish it? You move onto the next and repeat, no feelings involved. But, then again life is not a game. 

I, like many others, have kept in contact only with the people I have bonded with the most while quarantined. While I have experienced it myself, those that only have artificial bonds to rely on experience far greater loneliness in situations where they are not conveniently surrounded by others. This would explain why although they are not necessarily isolated physically, they are isolated in spirit. This causes mental turmoil and unhappiness. In the short term, this feeling is acceptable, but dreadful if experienced 60/60/24/7, which is every second, of every minute, of every hour, and everyday. So you see, surrounding yourself with strangers causes isolation and ultimately does not make one happy. 

Happiness is achieved in many different ways, so anything can bring out one’s happiness. What makes me happy is not the same thing that would make another happy. Happiness is subjective and hard to measure. Not just that, but happiness is just one of the many emotions we feel as humans and we associate different things with a mix of feelings. For me, late night calls with my friends, singing the newest TWICE songs, and online shopping are just a few of the things that bring out my happiness. Something I discovered after years of exploring hobbies. Joy is a collective choice. The effort needed is greater now, against all odds we must take initiative. Only we can find and bring ourselves true joy. It is impossible for happiness to ‘find’ us. 

It is one’s duty to discover what brings out their happiness and to surround themselves with such in order to cultivate it. If there is anything to take away from the past 12 months though, it is that you won’t be able to find happiness completely alone or by being surrounded by strangers.