The Staircase of Happiness

Happiness is a staircase. Happiness is the ultimate goal of the human race. It is sought after and worked for, but spending all of one’s time and effort in doing so completely misses the key to happiness. Happiness is not something that is just a future possibility, but a present reality. While greater and more long lasting happiness should be worked for, it is imperative to enjoy the happiness of today. Otherwise, the benefits and fruits of all our hard work will never be appreciated. What’s the point in working on something if you will never enjoy its benefits or journey along the way? Why perpetually cook a meal that will never be enjoyed? Over the 17 year course of my life, I have come to realize these truths. While I continue to strive for greater goals, I try to be content and happy in the moment.

When I was younger, I always wanted more and I always wanted better. I continuously begged my dad to teach me how to ride a bike at four years old, and after weeks of practice I accomplished that goal. Smiling back at my dad after he let go of the bike, I achieved that happiness for a small moment in time. But just days later, riding a bike no longer filled me with that same happiness. I saw my neighbor riding his bike with no hands, and I decided that was what I wanted to do next. That would bring me happiness. While this feat took much longer to accomplish, it yielded the same result as before: momentary happiness that faded off, in search of a new goal. I was accomplishing my goals, but I was running up the staircase. Each step is a piece of happiness, and as they ascend, they become pieces of larger happiness. Running up the staircase meant my foot would only contact the step for a split second before lifting in search of bigger steps. And while speeding up the staircase, I was unable to enjoy the ascension. In fact, it made me tired.

Today, I ascend the staircase much differently. Instead of bolting up the staircase without enjoying the process, I now firmly plant one foot into my current state of happiness, and lift the other foot in search of a higher and larger step. In the present moment, I am happy. I have accomplished many of my early goals, but more importantly I enjoy the ascension up the steps. Because I am not bolting up the steps, I am able to gaze out upon the steps below me: my accomplishments. That A on the history test was an accomplishment itself that made me happy in that moment, but it was also part of the journey toward larger steps of happiness. My formal education exists to provide me with endless opportunities so that I can be even happier later in life. But viewing the past and education only as working toward happiness will never result in happiness. While doing math homework is definitely not a source of my happiness, I must appreciate the happiness that it will bring me later, but also acknowledge the positives in the moment; I am succeeding and maybe listening to a favorite song. In that moment, most of the happiness depends on my view of it. I can try to eradicate the small source of frustration and allow my future happiness to diminish in size, or I can enjoy the little pieces of happiness in that moment and work toward a better and brighter future.

On the staircase, I can also see the happiness that lies ahead, something I must work for. And while simultaneously observing my past achievements and future goals, I can pause and enjoy my current state of happiness. I have accumulated good grades, spent time with friends, and explored my interests so far in life. In those moments, I lived in the moment. Enjoying those little moments and being able to forget about the rest of the world and the future is key to achieving happiness. While continuously living in the moment can be dangerous, it must be done at certain times. Always living in the moment can lead to less work toward future happiness, meaning it is pausing on one step for too long and letting the higher and larger steps disappear. Never living in the moment is rushing up the steps like I did as a child, which never allows a full enjoyment of happiness. What I have learned is to find a certain balance on the amount of time I stay on one step depending on what that step may be. I will stay on the step of being accepted into college longer than getting an A on a Spanish quiz.

What lies ahead is a journey to expand my horizons, and enjoy even greater happiness in the future. But what makes happiness a staircase and not a hamster wheel is that I will enjoy every step of happiness along the way, and as I ascend higher into the skies of happiness, I will never forget how I got there: slow, appreciative, content, and determined. One step at a time, I will continue to rise. I will be happier one day, but I am happy now.