As I type this, I am watching America fall away through a plane window. I am realizing, not for the first time, but definitely more intensely than ever before, that I will not be back for 5 months (which is 4 months longer than I've ever been away from the country before). I am panicking.
As I was waiting for this flight to depart, I read an article about a man named Paul Dolan, a professional happiness scholar. He explained that thoughtful, driven people have a tendency to overanalyze what it is that will make them happy and, in the process, overlook the little things that make them happy on a day-to-day basis. The realest happiness, he says, comes from surrounding oneself in small happinesses.
In my head, there are two options: passion and contentedness, and the problem is I have no idea which one equals happiness. I could lead the poetic life I imagined for myself as a teenager desperate to escape the suburban cycle, an extraordinary life of constant adventure and unfamiliarity. I could fall in love every day and swing dramatically from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows and back again. This is the vision of happiness I have always had for myself, but I have always been afraid to admit that it is a lonely one. OR, as Dolan prescribes, I could find happiness in being content. I could fall in love with someone who is not mysterious and romantic but rather who makes me laugh at jokes I want to pretend I am too sophisticated for. I could live in one city for 10 or 20 years and spend weekends with the same few friends who I know and who know me. I never seriously considered this option because it always seemed excruciatingly normal but the older I get, the more appealing a sense of permanence becomes.
You're probably wondering what any of this has to do with my semester abroad. When I initially decided to study abroad, I imagined it would be a lot like a coming-of-age movie montage. I imagined I would be in a new city every weekend, meeting fascinating strangers, fellow gypsies with whom I would share a couple of unforgettable nights and then never see again, too wrapped up in my adventures to even miss home. When it occurred to me that studying abroad is probably a lot like school in the US, only in a different city, I almost decided not to go. I have a wonderful life at school, exciting and comfortable all at once, and the idea of having to carve out a whole new one felt overwhelming and frankly terrifying. Obviously, I decided to go anyway.
I have been trying to turn these thoughts into words for over an hour now and I still have no idea what will make me happy or which life I will choose (if you were expecting all my introspection to end in a real resolution, I'm telling you now, this is not the blog for you). I suppose the beauty of being 19 is that I don’t have to know yet but for the moment, this is me acknowledging my fear and resolving to spend the next 5 months becoming aware of and surrounding myself in small happinesses alongside the big ones. Perhaps there is more than one way to be happy. Perhaps passion and contentedness are not mutually exclusive, after all. I'll let you know when I figure it out.
More Blogs From This Author
<p>Hallo! My name is Aniqa Raihan and I am a junior at the George Washington University majoring in international affairs. I'm hoping to take my international education beyond the classroom by spending a semester in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. Join me as I meet new people, explore new places, and hopefully, find my home away from home.</p>