The walls of my home were lined with pictures of visits to London, Paris, New York.
I had friends and hobbies, a job and a bank account with enough money to support myself. Everything around me was a reminder of what was missing in an outwardly perfect life.
I read the Gettysburg address inscribed on the wall, remembering parts of it that I had memorised in school.
As I gazed at the other shimmering monuments that defined the capital of the country that would become my home for the next decade and half, I soaked in the atmosphere and the sentiments embedded in the words of its founders.
Falling short on material goals translated to unhappiness. Much of our obsession with feeling happy, being happy, making ourselves happy causes us to be anything but happy.
I do have a nice home, a supportive husband, two children and still have the Ph. “Happiness is a state of mind” proclaims a popular bumper sticker.No matter what I do, I will not be able to get everything right. A few joggers pass by, trying to get their daily exercise quota. I prefer to quietly point out the silver lining in the looming clouds that gather around. The ups and downs of life have taught me that making happiness a precondition to living a full life is not possible.Overwhelmed by everyone’s demands, I step out for a walk. The act of putting one step in front of the other calms me down. Happiness is a moving target, hit or miss, depending on the kind of day I am having. What I am is, an optimist, often accused of viewing the glass as half-full, as if it’s a crime. Developing an attitude that allows you to navigate the natural turbulence of life, without letting it pull you under, is what truly matters.The first time I saw falling snow was also the first time I saw the majestic Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.I had landed in America, a few weeks before Christmas, as a naïve twenty-two-year-old bride.The faint breeze highlights the doubts I have regarding settling down in Singapore. Optimism is a state of being and being an optimist doesn’t automatically translate to being happy.How do I fulfill myriad demands while trying to find a job? A vital step, a giant leap actually, is required to move from optimist to happy, to transform the permanent state of being to the temporarily elevated state of happiness.On the day of my thesis defense, I stood in a long room lined with a plush carpet and oak bookcases, politely smiling as fellow students congratulated me and passed around the obligatory bottle of champagne.As my thesis advisors signed the page that signified the successful completion of my field of study and allowed me to use the prefix “Doctor”, the overwhelming feeling was not one of glory, but sadness.No wonder happiness has been defined, studied, dissected, pursued and even measured by a metric such as Gross National Happiness in Bhutan. We have early risers, late sleepers, sports enthusiasts, sedentary sloths, neat freaks, junk food lovers, bookworms, and binge watchers of TV shows.The first order is to figure out a dinner menu that appeals to the fitness-focused husband (who is always hungry), an appearance conscious teenager (who eats like a bird) and a health-unconscious preteen (who refuses vegetables). I don’t control it just as I don’t control my heartbeat.