Happiness is a funny thing when you sit down and think about it. All your life you’re told to do things that make you happy, to pursue happiness. As an American one of your fundamental rights is the pursuit of happiness. It’s funny though, the more you pursue happiness the more it seems to evade you. Why is that? Why is it so difficult for certain people and certain cultures to achieve happiness?
I’ve been traveling quite a bit these past few months, with my longest stay being in Mfuwe, Zambia. Most Zambians live on the equivalent of one USD per day. Could you imagine? While these people may not have much, they seem to make up for it in happiness. I ventured into town to go to the local market, the town is strewn with tiny huts. Most of these huts do not have proper doors, electric or indoor plumbing. Some of these people walk miles to get water to drink. Yet when I walked around the market, everyone was so genuinely happy. They were kind and warm, constantly with a smile on their faces. This then begs the question; how can they be happy with so little while Americans and many other industrialized countries are so unhappy and have so much more?
I believe it ties into the value they put on relationships. Instead of only communicating through a screen, these people enjoy face to face interactions. They value those interactions, they put time and effort into their families and friends. They cherish those small moments and don’t seem to be bothered with trying to get the next best thing.
Americans on the other hand, seem to be trying to achieve the American Dream. The dream of significant other, two kids, dog and white picket fence in the suburbs. They are working 9-5 everyday, if not more, to try and constantly have the next best thing. A new bigger TV came out? I need that because my current one is already a year old. Instead of putting value in personal relationships, it seems our value comes from what we own. Our value comes from material things. As an American, we mainly speak through screens and spend most of our days at work. I can attest to falling into this mentality, the new iPhone came out and of course I want it. If I lose WiFi or LTE service, I find myself unnecessarily upset. We can afford to purchase all these fancy things, but are we truly happy? It’s puzzling to me. Why do we put so much of ourselves into things that aren’t even real, instead shouldn’t we be valuing our time with family and friends? Shouldn’t we spend more time with our children (if you have them), because they grow up so fast.
It’s just some things I’ve been thinking about as I travel. Feel free to not agree with me and tell me you are a happy American and still living the American dream. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. This is just mine.