By Ellie Dessart
We were welcomed by the all-too-familiar aroma – a heavenly mix of fresh rye bread, roast beef and smoky bacon – and the usual lunchtime clamor.
It was 12:50 p.m. on a Tuesday and the popular village deli was packed. As I rummaged through my wallet to pay for my usual, I looked over at my friend who was waiting by the door. She gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up and said, “Hey, as long as you have those chicken nuggets, you’re happy.”
This small interaction got me thinking about the word happiness and what it entails. It’s funny how it’s so simple, a basic human emotion, and yet the concept itself is fuzzy and obscure.
As I considered the people, places and objects that contribute to my own sense of joy, I remembered a method Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project,” followed: discovering happiness through an I-know-it-when-I-see-it approach.
One such moment happened as I was sitting on the cold, concrete path in front of Bronxville High School. My English teacher had created a lesson on mindfulness, and as part of the activity, he took our class outside to wander around the front lawn and interact with nature, hoping we would find some sense of peace with our surroundings.
My eyes fell on the trees across the street, a mix of reddish brown, burning orange and vibrant yellow contrasting with the muted grey sky. I felt the crisp air passing through the tiny holes in my sleeves, and although I was chilly, I was happy to be wearing my favorite sweater, happy to be sitting down and enjoying the sounds and sights of my favorite season. It was in that space, that moment of simply looking around and taking the time to breathe, that I felt most at ease.
Perhaps our struggle to find happiness comes from a distorted view on the way we’re supposed to live amid an age of growing technology and sophistication. With a fast-paced society and high value placed on productivity, it’s difficult to slow down and make time for oneself.
As Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, once said in a speech at the World Government Summit in 2015, “In the new world, it is not the big fish that eats the small fish, it is the fast fish that eats the slow fish.”
Many people, including myself, fall into this description. We focus on the “bigger picture,” rushing toward elusive goals in hopes of finding satisfaction in the end result.
But what if we stopped focusing on the final destination? What if we turned our attention to the little things along the way? Each person’s life is one large story, but within each story lies individual chapters, pages full of single letters and characters. In the same way each word crafts a book, every small moment we encounter adds to our own narratives. So why don’t we take the time to enjoy them?
That isn’t to say we should abandon all ambition and progression. In some cases, this rush does better suit certain people. But we do need to build in some time to “take a chill pill” every once in a while, to allow ourselves a moment of rest. It’s important to look ahead, but it’s also important to experience the little gems of joy we encounter in the present. The objects that are seemingly trivial may end up being the most sublime.
Happiness doesn’t have to be complex, and it certainly doesn’t have to be one immense thing. Maybe it’s sitting outside and relishing an autumn day, reflecting on the beauty of the world around you. Or maybe it’s as simple as $3 and a plate of chicken nuggets.
Try to take the time to slow down and let your mind become silent – and give yourself room to listen to your own heartbeat.
Ellie Dessart is a senior at Bronxville High School. Her monthly column “Inside the Mind of a Teen” examines and addresses the issues pertaining to teenagers at both the local and global level.