adj. feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.
What does this word mean exactly?
I used to work in the admissions office of a school. My job was to show perspective parents the school in the hopes they would send their 4 year old to our Junior Kindergarten the following September.
I met a lot of wonderful parents. Okay - most were wonderful; others were downright crabby, and yet others would spend the entire tour bawling because they were separating from their baby. I got that. I always carried tissues.
My husband called me Lucy Van Pelt. (Google it.)
While every parent was different, they all - the wonderful, the crabby, and the bawling - had a common wish that I heard on every tour. I could practically predict the time it would come out of their mouths. The wish? They wanted their child to be happy. Happy. “I want her to feel happy.” “I want him to be happy.” “Be happy.” “Feel happy.” “Act happy.” Happy, happy, happy.
Finally, after conducting hundreds of tours over several years, I couldn’t take it any more and on one occasion asked a parent - a parent from the wonderful group who I thought could take the question emotionally - what that meant.
“What exactly do you mean by happy?” I asked.
She looked at me like I had two heads.
“I want her to feel like she loves her surroundings, to have friends, to feel confident, to fit in and be happy every single day.”
Are you happy every single day? I know I’m not.
Here’s the thing. I wanted that for her child too. I wanted that for every child who came to the school. But, honestly, happiness is something we earn. It’s not something we are handed when we walk into a room. In fact, I was willing to bet that within hours of her kid entering the JK classroom some other happy kid was going to rip the red crayon out of her hand and step on the artwork she just made. You know what? She wouldn’t be happy.
“I think what you really want,” I said, “is for your child to feel capable. Resilient. Content. To be able to roll with the punches. Peaceful. Maybe even a little fearless.”
She continued to look at my two heads.
I don’t blame her. Fifteen years earlier I took the same tour at the same school and uttered the same words. I wanted my daughter to be happy. If I remember correctly, I was a bawler. Maybe even a crabby bawler.
Can I share something with you? Four years ago that same daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We have seen ‘happy.’ Boy, have we seen happy. And, by definition, we have seen the opposite. Honestly, watching my incredible daughter navigate it all has lead me to this ‘word business’ business in the first place.
All that to say, I am not picking on the word happy. It is a happy little word. I am simply suggesting that achieving happiness requires work. And in a world where we seem to be more anxious than any other generation, the expectation to feel happy can leave us feeling miserable.
So, instead of wishing you a happy day, I wish you a day where you feel like you are all that you are. That way, you will find your happy.