Dependent Origination

Ten Years and Happiness

Posted on: September 28, 2008


I was crossing a street in New York City ten years ago and glimpsed a picture of Diana on the corner newstand. My friend was waiting for me at the other side of the street so I only had time to read the headline. It is hard to believe that ten years has passed and it is even harder to believe the person i have become and the place I am in.
I arrived in this country ten years ago early August. It was my first time traveling by air and I landed in this huge airport in Newark New Jersey. My college commencement was barely a month ago at the time of my arrival. Those last days in China were so busy that i probably ended up with a severest tan on my arms since i was out running errands most of the time. On the ten year anniversary day I was actually working in an open office in California. I paused for a brief minute to reflect on my path from a starry-eyed college girl to a strong woman today. By any accounts, I would not have imagined the current me ten years ago.
The early days in this country are so memorable. Thanks for Between mm to write a nice article to remind me that I should at least write something. Not for now but for future. That this is due for my own existence, to recollect, to remember and to reexamine myself. Initially I was relunctant to write because it is such a private topic. As soon as I started writing, I realize it is too large a subject to write in a mere thirty minutes. So many things happened. So many. I feel at loss when trying to start from anywhere. Or is it possible at all to describe the confusion, the transformation, the agony, the ecstasy, the disappointment, the realization and most importantly, the gratitude, of these ten years.
I joined a discussion with Between mm and other college friends on the definition of happiness and the strategy to achieve it yesterday. This reminds me of a New York Times article titled “Happiness 101” a couple weeks ago, which details the current status of the idea positive psychology. Positive psychology studies the positive emotional state of a person, such as happiness and well-being, in contrast to the more traditional subjects of psychology such as depression, anger and resentment.  The article explains there are five building blocks of happiness: optimism, gratitude, mindfulness, hope and spirituality. There are specially designed interventions for a person to practice on the five blocks so that he can achive a better state of well-being. I find the approach very helpful.
I am sure everyone suffers here and there given it is unimaginable that nothing bad happens during such a long time as ten years. Mine is no exception. For one thing I spent way longer than usual time for my PhD. For a second my road to a marriage is way bumpier than most people. It certainly did not help when the H1 quota ran out first day of the financial year of 2005, which was October 1st 2004 when I was looking for a job for real, finally. It was a very dark period of my life. I was in depression for about two years, when I look back now. However, I remember the day when everything started to turn around.
I was stopping at a red light at the intersection of 146 and Providence Rd in Schenectady New York. It was sometime in March 2005, when my OPT had less than one month left and I was still jobless and incomeless nearly a year after I finished my dissertation. Out of nowhere, I suddenly realized that I was lucky and I should stop whining. I was healthy and I could go anywhere. My car was working and if only it gave me some headache during those incomeless days I would be devastated. My family loved me and supported me on whatever I chose to do. Despite all the idiosyncrasies, we were still sticking together after all these years. My then-boyfriend, even though refused to marry me, still sheltered me and did not complain about anything money related. My friends, upon hearing about my plight, offered so much help that I felt like why I deserved their attention and efforts.
I received love and suport. I had more than ninety percent of people in the entire world. Why should I feel bad just because I couldn’t find a job before my OPT expired? Best opportunities fell on my head. Best friends showed around me. What made me think that I deserve all these? No one, even God if he exists, owe me anything. What I already had was precious enough that I really had no reason to think I was entitled to ask for more.
It was a lightning of a day and I became so grateful at that red light. The situation was the same dire, however the change of heart, the change of atitude made everything so different. I started seeing things in a totally different light and my heart was peaceful and I stopped complaining most of the times 😉
Things could go differently. I could have become an unpleasant woman that complains about everything. I could have become miserable because I think what should be mine did not come to me easily. I have no idea what triggered the change at that red light. I consider myself very lucky and under the power of gratitude, my heart and my life finds its place in this huge world.
I have been a happy person and I will always be. If I had not gone through the depression era, the revelation about being grateful may come to me at a much later stage of life. So I am fairly lucky that I realized my problem at such an early age. Besides the earthly possesions and titles I have achieved, the best gift of the past decade is my newly acquired awareness to remind myself to appreciate the common, the rare and all things between. If realizing gratitude could make such a mark on my heart, imagine everything else such as mindfulness and spirituality. The road to happiness is long and bumpy but now that I am well equipped, I am looking forward to what is going to come.


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