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The Pursuit of Happiness

How many people can honestly say that they are genuinely happy with their life? I believe not many.

An incarnation of this theory was created when I was sitting in one of the most famous cities in the world: New York City. I brought myself over to a bench in Central Park. I watched as faces passed by, each with a different story, living a completely different life. At that point I began to question all the walks of life these people may have had to endure to bring them to this exact moment. Yet, out of all the people in which I had seen, not one seemed to be smiling, not one seemed to look happy. I had then started to think of happiness and how present it actually is within many of our lives. Happiness is portrayed in multiple forms, whether it be books, movies, and or real life.

Books and movies all throughout the world have proven in many ways why this theory is true. For example, in one of the most famous books ever published, that many of us have read early in life, The Great Gatsby.

The author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, incorporates multiple life lessons throughout his book, yet, readers towards the end are left in shock when the main character Jay Gatsby is shot to death and killed. In the book, Gatsby does everything to get the love of his life back. In the beginning of the story he seems to have everything but towards the middle of the story we soon learn that he is for some reason still not satisfied.

Trying to obtain the one thing to complete his satisfaction ultimately leaves him with nothing. The whole meaning behind the novel is to prove that the American dream is unattainable. As Fitzgerald famously writes in the Gatsby, "The American Dream is the continuous desire for better, it is impossible to fully grasp".

Not only books, but movies too are a great way of portraying messages to people. In the well-known movie Tthe Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith, tells the story of a single father and his son enduring many hardships through shelters and work trying to make a better life for the two of them.

In the movie Will Smith's character is in a phone booth looking down at a nickel. He begins to say how in that moment he started thinking about Thomas Jefferson and the declaration of iIndependence, specifically the part about the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The word ‘pursuit’ is significant and implies that happiness is something we can only pursue and that we can never actually have. This idea portrayed in the movie leaves the audience thinking of the idea of happiness as a whole.

I believe, famous books and movies try to convey this message of how happiness is unattainable, which brings me to my second point. As someone who has conceived this theory through my own life, I have yet to be proven wrong. I like to study people and try to understand the way their mind works.

There are times in my life where I have been happy, yes, however it is a cycle. Life will bring you happiness and sadness consistently. There is never a period in my life where I have maintained a consistent “happy” mood. There are so many different factors that have played a role in this, whether it be a bad grade that ruined my day, or the boy who never texted me back, that ruined my week, or the passing of someone I loved dearly, that ruined the entirety of my happiness.

With this being said, I have taken my understanding of my own personal reflections to a broader perspective. Asking my friends and family, “Are you truly happy with your life?” Only to receive answers like, “I wish I could’ve done this differently” or “I’m at a good place but I’m still not satisfied.” Coming across a person who is truly pleased is close to impossible. For example, one of my closest family friends had been married for 18 years to the love of her life. They had a family together, a house, and their time together ended when she found her husband cheating on her. It’s been seven years since her divorce, and I have yet to see her the same way she was before. Even though most people tell her she will be happy again she claims that no matter what life gives her she will always feel a sense of emptiness.

My concern can be proven further with my third point, depression. Depression is a common mental illness amongst many people across the world. It often correlates with sadness, or in other words when a person is put in a helpless state of mind with little to no hope.

With rising suicide rates due to this form of mental illness, it has become an serious concern amongst a range of people. Depression does not discriminate. No matter who you are, where you are, and what you have.

The idea of happiness is present throughout books, movies, and society. There are many different theories, and understandings of life. This is one that has stuck out to me personally as someone who has always strongly believed in this idea.


Edited by Chloe Mansola

Image: "The American Dream Collage" by sgvisuals licensed by CC BY 4.0 DEED

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