Clap along…

… If you know what happiness is to you

Well, Pharrell Williams might sing his hit song “Happy” as if everyone is just going to start clapping along. And for those who do, like the survivors of Philippines flood, then I’m envious.

While I consider myself a generally happy person, I spent my entire adulthood trying to figure out what happiness is to me, and never quite figured it out, never quite put the pieces of the puzzle together.

I finally figured it out, I think… In Amsterdam, during the first leg of what was one of the best trips of my life.

I had been in Amsterdam for almost a week with a couple day trips here and there. But on a cold Thursday afternoon I put aside my camera. I put aside my phone. I put aside my map. I wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t trying to find the perfect angle to capture a great photo, or the most adventurous or productive route to a destination, or the most highly recommended restaurant/bar on Trip Advisor or Foursquare. I was just walking. Slowly. Very slowly. In fact, if I was in front of me I would get annoyed and try to pass me by.

And that’s when I fell in love with Amsterdam. That’s when I truly saw it, felt it, experienced it. I saw people siting outside having a glass of beer in the cold. I saw people eating sandwiches together by their door steps. I saw people laughing with their friends. I saw people at pubs, enjoying themselves not particularly because of fine food, or the cool music, or a trendy ambiance. Not because the sun was out. But because they were with their friends, with people they truly cared about. They weren’t out to put on a show or pick up or impress clients.  They were out, because it was 6 pm after work and they wanted to spend time with those they loved. I felt instantaneously happy. I felt happy because the people around me were finding happiness in the simple things in life.

It reminded me of some of my other happy moments in life:

…  like riding a bike with my sister as a kid, with the sun shining on our face…

… like volunteering with the UN/NGOs in Bam, Iran, after an earthquake that had affected an entire town, where I lived in a trailer in a desert with limited to no amenities, during a scorching summer. No I was not happy to see people suffer. Nor did my happiness come from the gratification of helping others, because I didn’t.  My happiness came from seeing people who had lost so much in their lives, who had experienced so much pain, still enjoying the simple things in life like an afternoon tea or finding a shelter for their neighbour…

… like having the best sleep of my life (as an insomniac) in a tent, in the Sahara desert,  surrounded by camels, desert mice, snakes and beetles, and waking up early to watch the sunrise…

… like walking to McDonald’s to get a McFlurry during a heat wave in Toronto…

… like walking through a pile of crunchy yellow fall leaves, making a mess, listening to the leaves breaking apart under my feet, and having my mom watch me do it, and smile.

And that’s when I realized, that to me, happiness, or at least a huge part of it, is simplicity. Appreciating the simple things in life.

The simple things in life, are always there. Much like the sun is always there. But I can’t feel its yellow rays shine on my face sometimes  because of the clouds that I have gathered around myself, like the stress of being great at my job, taking the perfect picture, wearing the coolest shoes, having the perfect weather for my vacation, drinking the best dry white wine… all of those are clouds that I need to push away to see the sun that makes me happy, the sun that exudes energy, heat, and life.

That’s when I realized, that when I stop seeking perfection, perfection finds me, in the form of simplicity, purity, and happiness.

That’s when I found out what happiness is to me.




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