Are you happy?

By Lily Zhao

"How are you today?""Are you happy?" This has been some sort of a cliché of my class. To let the students express their feelings freely, I don't teach them "I'm fine, thank you! and you?", Instead, I tell them to say "I'm happy", "I'm sad", and "I'm angry" in response to my greetings. Most of the time the students would reply to me, saying "I'm happy". While some students would say they are angry or they are sad. To my surprise, once upon a time, when I asked this question, a student replied "I don't know, I just feel bored." Though it's not a big deal, I'm deeply impressed. Because it's not easy for a little girl at that age (5-year-old) to figure out what or how she feels, let alone to express it.

"Are you happy?", the answer to this question may vary from person to person and from time to time. But one thing is certain. That is, adults tend to say no, while children tend to say yes more often. So many have concluded that growing up is so sorrowful that we almost cannot be as happy as when we were children and that adults are harder to please. (in other words, adults are less likely to feel happy.) I was for this view some time ago, but after some time, experiencing, learning, thinking, and living, I changed my point of view. Whether adults or kids, they are equal in terms of the ability to feel happy(perceive happiness) even though they could not feel the same towards a certain thing. The difference is that adults are more clear about what they want, what they like, they are more objective-oriented. If they are not given or provided with things they want, they would say they are not happy. However, Kids are more tolerant. They cannot figure out exactly what they want or what they like. Given that they are not given the things that they hate, they would say they are happy, but in fact, maybe they are not.

For example, If a child who doesn't like school was asked to do the dishes, or else he/she should finish all the homework quickly and accurately. Then you will see him/her do the dishes merrily. But if an adult who doesn't like work was asked to do some extra work without payee, you will see him/her finish the work unwillingly. And if the extra work has some extra rewards, the adult would do it more willingly. That doesn't mean adults can only be pleased with money, they can also feel happy about some little things in life. They could feel happy when they see a beautiful girl or a handsome boy on the way to work, they could feel happy just because someone says something nice to them. They could be happy just because the dress they always want to buy is on sale. But Besides these moments, more often, they have to deal with the pressure of life and work, they have to put themselves in the reality where they struggle very hard just for a living. If you ask an adult "are you happy", probably he/she would say no. After all most of the time, dealing with must-to-do things that he/she doesn't like cannot make him/her feel happy. To an adult, "I'm not happy most of the time" equals "I'm not happy". In that way, they can avoid the trouble to answer more questions concerning this topic.

As to me, childhood is not all that sweet, adulthood is not all that sour. I guess when we recall childhood memories, we tend to memorize the happy moments, when we reflect on our adulthood, we are easily trapped by the difficulties that we are experiencing. Things that could make me happy in the past could still make me happy now. Though my access to those things is different now. When I was a child, I could get those things from my parents, but now I have to earn them by myself. And one day, when I can earn a living and live my own life, I think I would say "I'm happy" proudly.

And all teenagers, wish you a healthy body to create your own happy ending!