Happiness – the Chase Goes On

Some people claim to know what happiness is. No one seems to know where or how to find happiness. But can happiness really be found and kept?

Born and raised in Liberia, we spend part of our childhood dreaming about leaving Liberia, crossing the vast Atlantic Ocean, landing on the heaven-on-earth terrain known as America. My junior high friend, Robert Saydee and I would lay on the bunk beds of our dorm room in a boarding school and verbally dream of the day when both of us would migrate to the great, rich United States, the land of the missionary, peace corps, CIA agent, tourist, Hollywood star, cars, planes, and black American athletes. So we dreamed until Saydee and I were separated by the need to continue our educational journeys in different locations. Our American dream lingered.

Well, it was not exactly the journey to America we would have scripted, but my lifelong friend and I are in the United States now. It was the brutal Liberian civil war that uprooted us and catapulted us to this sweet land of liberty, which has proved to be so much more than our boyish minds had imagined. Give or take a few surprises.

Liberians who still live in what is perhaps now the world’s poorest country will not believe me when I say it, but it is true: there is no happiness in America, just as there is no happiness in Liberia. Life in America means a lot of things, but permanent happiness is not one of them.

What does it really mean to live in America? Find it in those words in nation’s Declaration of Independence: it is the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. In the United States, what you are given is the right to live, to be free, and to pursue happiness. You are not granted, guaranteed or given happiness. No, it’s not happiness but the pursuit of it. That’s what America offers.

The “pursuit” is the key to life in America. As for the happiness part, give it up, you will never catch it here. Unless you have figured out the mental trick of finding happiness in the pursuit itself, you will be a wind chaser all the days of your life in America. Can you catch the wind and hold it in your hand? Neither can you grab happiness, hold it, and take it with you into your American home.

Happiness has little to do with geography. It is not about location, or relocation. Moving from here to there will not make you happy any more than changing from flip flops or slippers to shoes. Happiness is not some place or some thing.

Happiness is a pursuit, not a catch. So, let the pursuit begin, or let it continue. Remember, they call it “the American dream”. It’s a “dream”, not a reality.

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