Are you happy?

I’ve been back in the States for over two months and I’m still trying to adjust to life post-Oxford. And post-graduation, for that matter. Yes, that’s right, I am a full-fledged college graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in History (minor in Sociology), thank you very much. But, where does that leave me? It’s funny how you spend thousands of dollars on an education and you’re still working out what to do with it. My advice would be to go to grad school because, hey, you haven’t been in school long enough already. Am I right? Well, at least for me.

But this post isn’t about my decision to pursue a Master’s in History, nor is it about the fact that an undergrad degree means little more than that I’m overqualified to work minimum wage. It’s just some thoughts I had while I was out watering the flowers where I am currently house-sitting.

“Are you happy?” I thought to myself. What an interesting question.

Thinking over the past year of my life, I’ll admit it had some rather tumultuous moments. Relationships ended, chapters closed. But it also had some fantastic, life-changing moments. Living in England was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a dream come true. I met friends who showed me how to be a better person and I was challenged academically in ways I never knew I could. I saw landmarks I’d only ever viewed in pictures or on-screen and I walked through the fields of England and Wales. The way my experience abroad changed me is not especially tangible when just talking to me. Sure, I picked up some English slang like “bruv” and I like to call restrooms the toilet now because it just makes more sense. I drink tea almost every day and I would kill for some clotted cream right about now, but that isn’t the fundamental change. What happened to me during my three and a half months in England changed how I perceive myself and what I want in life.

So again, that little question, “Are you happy?” You know, happy is such a weird word. Like, this little guy, 🙂 he looks happy, right? Some people (forgive the generalization) think that being happy is the main goal to strive toward. If you’re doing something, you often gauge whether or not that thing makes you “happy,” but I don’t think happiness is what we should be measuring our lives against. It is contentedness. Are we at peace with where we are, are we at peace with where we’re going?

For me, at least, contentedness is not simply being happy, because happiness is an emotion. It’s unpredictable and it’s foolish to base our lives on an emotion that is as changeable as we are. I think that being content with our present situation is much more important than “being happy” because that feeling of elation is easily ended by a problem at work or at home, or even by something as trivial as rush hour traffic.

So, the real question is, are you content? Is your life, at this moment in time, without looking back on past mistakes, where you want it to be? And for me, right now, it is.