Happiness Inquiry Project
Congratulations to SAIL STEAMX student Vivien Dome for taking a risk to express her learning in such a unique and creative way! Here is Vivien’s amazing poetic piece representing her research on happiness.
Happiness Through the Years
By Vivien Dome
I gazed out at the water. It was so bright and so dark at the same time. Little did I know the comparison it would have to me. I wanted to jump right in and at the same time, I was scared. The sparkling lights off the ripples created by the sun seemed to call out. Come play. But the darkness kept me at bay by saying “Danger. There is danger in here.” The arms of my mother held me in my blanket as she explained to me what this large mass of water was called. How I knew it was water, I do not know. I just did. In that moment, a warm feeling of something filled me up. Happiness. It coursed through my veins like the water before me. But it stayed almost constant, like the rise and fall of the tide. Would it change over the years I was alive? Or would it stay like this. Calm, gentle like my mother’s singing voice lulling me to sleep. Or would I one day grown up to be like my father? Always running off somewhere, always seeming scared and angry. Would my mother always be there with me? Like she promised? Never leave my side. I closed my eyes and drifted back to the sightless world I came from, the waves of the water that my mother called the ocean echoing in my mind.
I watched as the sand was washed off of my toes by the waves of the ocean. I was ten now. My mother no longer carried me around in her arms, and my father did not coo to me anymore. They held my hand and walked me around the beach. Beach, which was the name of sand and the bushes and rocks by the edge of the water. The water itself was the ocean. It was still dark and scary and still bright and inviting. I looked around and wrapped the towel around my shoulder tighter. I had been in that water. My curiosity had gotten the best of me. I had waddled in up to my knees. Then almost ran back out. In the end, I was plunging in head first. It had made me feel satisfied. And happy. But what was happiness. I did not know. So, I read a book, I did some research and discovered the meaning. Happiness was the feeling of well-being. Of satisfaction. Of achieving something you couldn’t do before. A feeling of pleasure when you receive a gift, or doing something you enjoy. The opposite of feeling sad. I glanced around me and saw a couple of children around my age running up the beach after their parents. Then another one, trailing behind and kicking the sand. He seemed sad. I thought of what had made him feel sad. Perhaps school. It was hard at times. Or his friends. Maybe his parents or something he had done wrong. Another group of children were laughing and playing while another was wiping her eyes. I counted ten. I remembered my studies and what my teacher had told me about something called ratios. 2 out of ten children on average were sad or depressed while eight out of ten were happy. While I wished I could do something for the two, I was glad that the couple of children playing were happy and that the world was not as upset as the darkness of the water suggested.
My eyes followed the clear liquid as it splashed back and forth foaming up onto the sand. My tears joined them. Pain. That was all, I felt. The happiness I felt in my earlier years was gone. School, friendships, responsibilities and relationships built up on my shoulders until I could barely hold them up. It was like holding up the sky. The water played around my feet. On the surface, it was sparkling and inviting, while down below, it would swallow you up in fear and darkness. For a moment I wondered, what would happen if I dived down deep and never came back up. Would I be missed? Would life continue on without me? Mine wouldn’t. I sniffed and scuffed the sand with my toe. Not yet. I turned around and walked back into the fray of pain, stress and sorrow.
I grinned as I stood amongst my fellow classmates. I had finished grade twelve and was now on my way of starting my own life. I smiled as the pictures were taken by friends and family. In the distance I could hear the ocean waves lapping against the cliffs. Following the seagulls cries I walked over to the edge and took a deep breath. Satisfaction. That was what I felt. It wasn’t like the years before, were I cried every night, or when I played in the sand not knowing the horrors of the world. This was satisfaction that I had accomplished so much. That I had made it this far in life. But this isn’t happiness. It was only part of it. My studies covered only so much, but nothing was going to explain to me what happiness was. It was unexplainable in words. I could basically feel the Serotonin multiplying inside of me as I listened to the laughter of my friends. Serotonin, Endorphins, Dopamine and Oxytocin were and are happy hormones. School taught me about them and gave me a chance to experience them all. But what was happiness, and why didn’t I find playing in the sand and dressing up barbies fun anymore. Why did that make me feel annoyed while studying and reading made me feel satisfied. That was a question I wanted to know the answer to.
I gazed out my window and watched the rain patter against the ocean. I needed a break, but I didn’t want one. I had taken my studies to the next level and have decided to become an expert on the human mind, nervous system and its secrets. I had handed in all my exams and exited with all A’s. But I still felt that something was missing from my learning. An important subject. Happiness. I turned my attention back to the computer screen before me and began to read. I scrolled through data of the most depressed ages being teenagers, and happiest being the elderly 60 or up. I read about the cause of depression, loneliness, loss of loved ones, PTSD, stress, fatigue, and lack of self-confidence. True, teenagers experience mood swings, but those weren’t even a tenth of what caused teens to be the most depressed age in one’s life. Suicide also occurred more frequently in ages 15 to 20. I sighed and once again glanced out the window. I knew what it was like being a teen. Changes both emotional and physical, stuck in a world between adulthood and childhood. I watched as the waves of the ocean frothed back and forth. Dangerous, deadly, but at the same time beautiful and mesmerizing. A thought struck my mind and I pulled up a new page.
I closed the door to my home, my mind filled with worry. Would they be alright? Would they step on the road and be killed before they blinked? Or would they come home, tears streaming down their faces with their heart broken. Kids. Such a big responsibility. At times, I just thought stress and fear was the only thing that existed. Keys jingling, I made my way towards the car were a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old sat waiting. I remembered the time they were so small and innocent and now; they were running off with friends. As long as they were safe and remembered that their mother and father were still here for them, everything would be fine. Hopefully. Sitting in the parked vehicle, I thought back to my research from last night. Adults aged 45-59 had the second highest depression and suicide levels compared to the others. Before kids, I did not understand. And I guess you never understand anything until it happens to you. When I was young and careless, I didn’t have as many responsibilities and my dreams were big and hopeful. But now, I am raising two children in this world keeping our finances together and realizing the brutal truth. That my dreams may not be reachable. That I am running out of time to make them come true. That they probably will only stay dreams. I started up the car and drove out of the driveway.
I gazed out at the water. It splashed to and for even in the warm, sunny weather. I sighed and smiled. I was 70 now.And life was fine. The kids had all left the nest and I have now retired from my work as a professor. Finances were good, the town was friendly, and my home was in great condition. I don’t need to worry about many things, such as health care, money, raising the little ones or many other responsibilities I had to do when I was younger. I took a deep breath and filled my lungs with the air from the sea. Satisfaction, peace, relief. I exhaled. Happiness. I looked back on the days when I would play on the beach. Run around with my friends and enjoy my youth. Very subtle memories of the time when I was an infant,the most prominent being the first time I saw the ocean. I did not know what life was back then. But now I do. It is like the ocean. The waves tumbling back and forth in a storm, while gently lapping against the shore in calm weather. The surface beautiful and eliciting curiosity, while deep down it is dark, dangerous, warning one to back off. But happiness, was like aboat. Helping you make your way through life. It couldn’t be described in words; it was just not possible. Everyone has a different view on happiness; thus, it cannot be explained by one person. Through the years of my life, happiness had been there, sometimes completely gone, or just as a silver lining, but it was there. I came to the conclusion that the reasons happiness change in your life is because of your values. Now, I value the happiness of others, but back in my youth, it was about mine. It sounds selfish, but it’s true. Not all these values are always perfect. Then comes depression. I watched as the water swirled around my feet. Being an elder, I could now enjoy the remainder of my life, and be proud of what I had accomplished. That I had made it through life. Thanks to happiness.