What Is Happiness?


Today my French professor is dressed up as a medieval French soldier and in the middle of our French class the rest of the professors in the department came running in all dressed up as soldiers and they had a sword fight in the middle of the class. And then another guy dressed up as the Pope came in and then they all fake killed him. And then we went back to learning about adjectives.

I love college. That is all.

Okay, so the real reason I am writing this post is because it is because I was thinking today about how happy I am and have been these past two months, especially in comparison with last year. And then today in one of my classes during a discussion about the book we are reading (The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson, just in case you were curious) we ended up debating the concept of happiness. What is happiness?

One girl said that she thought the simple asking of the question implied that one wasn’t happy. I said that I would argue in favor of the opposite, because in the time right before the class I had just been recently thinking to myself about how happy I am. A guy brought up the point that feelings such as depression are very valid, and one can be depressed and still have happy days where they laugh and smile. And then another girl brought up the point that there is a difference between happiness and contentment.

Last year I was not happy. Or rather, in the context of my class discussion today, I was not content. It took me a while to realize that, and really by the time I did, I was within my last month of my stay in Brazil, and I felt like it was kind of too late to make a decision to go home, or take any other drastic measures along those lines. And then when I got home I spent the first month being really mad about how my exchange in Brazil had turned out.

Now I have been in school for about two months, and I’ve been home for four. (Only four! It seems like it was so long ago.) I can think back about my year abroad without being so emotionally attached that I’m completely irrational, though to say that I’m completely subjective is not the case at all. Let’s just say that I don’t think about Brazil and want to go around complaining and throttling members of the organization anymore. I do have a lot of thoughts about it though.

A day where I was very happy. Chiara and I went to a soccer game because we needed something to do.
A day where I was very happy. Chiara and I went to a soccer game because we needed something to do.

Like for the fact that I was generally discontent didn’t mean that I didn’t have times where I was overwhelmingly happy. Like the times I hung out with my friends and the trips I went on and the family I gained. I am very proud of the things I achieved while in Brazil, such as becoming conversationally fluent in Portuguese and learning more about the bus system than most of the Brazilians I hung out with regularly and the huge amount of confidence that I gained. I do not regret going there because of the things I ultimately gained. But I’m not sure I would say that I was content while there.

We made structures out of marshmallows and uncooked spaghetti last Thursday.
We made structures out of marshmallows and uncooked spaghetti last Thursday.

But the basic idea is that I am happier now. I am content. I LOVE college. I am taking great classes that make me think and I don’t feel trapped in an apartment and I am making friends and my social group isn’t only compiled of five people that I talk to regularly. I can leave the dorm without being scared that something might happen to me and I have something to do every day, and there are always things that are going on if I don’t have anything planned. I am not bored. There are also the other things about me understanding the language without having to think really hard and I enjoy American food and I can go to the grocery store and know that I will most likely find the ingredients I came for. Let’s just say every so often I look around and say, wow, here are all of the things I missed while I was gone.

Happy Halloween!

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4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Glad you’re happy to be home, Claire! I’ll visit you one day in the future

    ~ your Aussie, Isabel

  2. Claire we are very happy to hear that you ‘love college’ and doing well. Sometimes it takes a while to get use to new surroundings and feel comfortable. We knew that you would do well no matter where you were and glad to hear that is the case!
    We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you in the future. Take care, love you very much….Gmom and Gdad…..

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