Happy Birth Day – Measure of Happiness

Pattern recognition is my favorite pastime. I am not sure if it is really a pastime, because I do it all the time – consciously or unconsciously. Observing a certain trend in my writings in past few years, I realized that most of them are satire on  society or concerns for unacceptable behavior in society. Today, as I celebrate (really?) or observe another birthday, I felt the need to write something positive. Life does not always offer lemons, I just forget to cherish the taste of honey it brings every now and then in life.
“What makes you happy?”
“What drives you?”
“What has been your biggest accomplishment of MBA program?”
                                                “What has been your significant achievement since your arrival in America?”
These are the questions I face quite frequently. Sometimes interviewers ask. Sometimes friends ask. I live such a packed life that there’s no time to stop and reflect. For questions like, “Hey How’s it going?” , I literally have no answer because there’s no time to actually feel and know how is it actually going. There are times, I would much rather prefer inert greetings like, “shirt is blue” or “Hey, door is big”. But a life without examination is not worth living in long run.  It’s time to jot down.
Observing the pattern in times when I felt happy since the last fall when I arrived, I must say that people make me happy. My eyes just twinkle with excitement when I am able to strike a humorous and engaging conversation with someone. There are couple of reasons for this happiness. I feel that when people find value in what I say and feel entertained, then   I feel  engaged and encouraged to share more.  I get to learn from these people – learning is a big factor for my happiness. When these conversations involve aha moments, I feel so fortunate to have met that person and learned a piece of new knowledge through him. A sense of security comes when I find people who are in many ways similar to me. A sense of accomplishment comes when I manage to find a common ground with someone who is very different from me. My happiness knows no bounds when these people are different from rest of the world and fall in the category of what I call thinkers. I tend to look at these personalities with lot of awe and respect and put them on a pedestal. So the more my bucket of thinkers grow, the more I feel assured about the world and about myself.
People make me happy in other situations too, when I am able to drop my prejudice and manage to go beyond  their first uncomfortable layer and get pleasantly surprised by the person behind the first layer, that’s a very satisfying experience. I not just overcome a challenge but also get to know another thinker! Spending a quality time with person from another country and getting over the initial laziness takes efforts but with that comes the incentive of discovering another country and culture which I may not be able to see in real any time soon.
Is this to say that my happiness depends on others and I tend to give away my locus of happiness to others? Possibly. Let me explore what other things make me happy if I am not with people around.
Use of systems and technology. As mentioned earlier, learning and gaining knowledge is critical to my positive mood. When I travel to a new city like San Francisco and I manage to find ways around, I feel very proud. Figuring out how to use public transport, how to buy tickets from automated machines, how to reach different places, finding  what I want to eat from  a complicated menu, finding out places to go to and things to do that were worth doing or going to – they all make me happy. I must admit, I am not an early adopter of technology many times. Thus breaking away from that initial inertia is quite an achievement for me. I consider myself not excellent with directions. Therefore, getting familiar with locations, remembering the names of streets and doing it all without anyone’s help make me feel happy.
Cooking. Again, learning component drives the joy here too. I did not cook before coming to grad school. Now learning to cook not just complex Indian cooking, but successful experimentation with cuisines of other cultures gives me a sense of attainment. Recently, I started baking and learned how to use an oven. I never imagined that I would be able to cook fish and bake fresh vegetables and consume them in a healthy way instead of deep frying way. Experiences of shopping at Blooming Food, understanding complex pricing structure, going to farmers market are all very exciting. By opening myself to new vegetables like broccoli and basil I feel good about myself. Feeding my guests with  warm food that sends out  aroma and steam is also very satisfying. I can’t wait to go home and show my family these skills and vegetables.
Movies. Zoning out into another world. Experiencing the experiences that I might not be able to see otherwise is a huge joy. It gives me further confidence about my ability to write that dream project I envision. They make me aware of the immense possibilities.
Music. Oh well. Good music becomes  my companion for a long time. Whenever I get exposed to an interesting piece through accident – someone shared that Facebook, or I heard it at someone’s house or party, I get impatient unless I get to hear the full song  alone and then if it passes that litmus test, it becomes my hum tune and enters my running playlist for weeks. It’s not very frequent to find such pieces though.
TV shows. I form a very strong and personal relationship with the characters. They sometimes become more common reference in my real conversations than real people in my life. That’s the extent to which they at times end up impressing me. These shows are not one time transaction like a movie (even a movie also stays with me for good time). The evolution of characters season after season, development of relationships and stories around them and special insights into the lives of real people who play these characters are all not just entertaining, but engaging and educating as well.
Buying. Well, smart and inexpensive buying. Because of constant pattern observation, I easily get bored with same clothes or dressing styles. But as an international grad student, I don’t have lot of money at my disposal to buy stylish clothes frequently. Thankfully, Salvation Army store and others come to my rescue. One big drive of positive mood is discovery of really high end and fashionably diverse clothes at dirt cheap prices. The warm smile and welcoming nature of cashier and attendants in these stores are further bonus. These stores are not humongous and overwhelming so I take my time to find things and finally make good deals.
Discovery. Finding more about the campus, its history and its culture beyond my own grad school gives me more belongingness to the university. Spreading the wings and meeting people from other departments, meeting totally random strangers on bus station or university cinema and striking chords of friendship are quite joyful.
Here’s to another year of discovery, friendships, learning and journey.
Happy Birth Day!
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