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Where to Look for Happiness

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UNC Chapel Hill undergrad, Double Major Psychology and Environmental Studies, Minor Biology

How I found Happiness

My happiness is melted sunlight dripping through slivers in the curtain and splashing on the laptop screen. A jolly rancher wrapper crinkles as I unwrap it and pop the candy into my mouth. Blue raspberry slips down my throat, and I wonder what a blue raspberry really is; I’ve only ever had raspberries that are pink. My sister and I are crammed in the seat together, and she’s sitting half on me. I don’t want to tell her to get off, because she would just say no, and we would explode into argument and ruin the drowsy tranquility.

A Chinese soap opera singer’s voice, distorted by poor television speakers, floats up the stairs as our parents fold dumplings for dinner. Mahjong tiles clack together as my grandfather laughs heavily and deeply, and my grandmother lets out a shriek. She probably just lost to him for the third time today.

Before my mother can becken us for dinner, my sister and I follow the aromatic flavors of the dumplings to the stovetop. I hope it’s my favorite - pork. I stand on my toes with my fingers gripping the edge of the counter to try to catch a glimpse at the filling, but I’m barely tall enough for my eyes to graze the edge of the bowl. My father, seeing my valiant effort, tries to picks me up, but I hide behind my sister. I’m already eight years old, almost a teenager!

My happiness is feeling the Daedo hogu tightening around my torso as my coach strings it up. The referee motions for us to step onto the ring. I take out my earbuds, and Panic! At the Disco’s “Victorious” fades away. My coach sends me off with an affirmative “huaiting!” My teammates stand behind a metal fence ten feet away, but I can hear them loudly and clearly.

“Let’s go Amy! Xu! Xu! Xu!”

“We don’t need Nike or Adidas, because Amy is my favorite Xu!”

My legs and arms fly around trying to land somewhere, anywhere, on my opponent’s red spotted chest gear, and my “Amy eagle screech” (as my teammates dub it) accompanies my rhythm as we fight. Even though the deep gasps I take are doing little to loosen the lactic acid from attaching to my muscles, I push forward and keep pushing.

When the buzzer sounds and the referee separates us, I finally let my legs relax, allowing fatigue to settle, and my teammates go crazy. One glance at the scoreboard and I go flying off the ring and over the fence into my teammates’ arms. The score is 10-0. I just won my first match of USA Taekwondo Nationals.

My happiness is an audience of empty chairs in the band room. Every B-day, I send my best friend to lunch with other people so that I can spend a few moments with my flute. It’s body is cold from spending the first half of the day in my car, but I place my lips on the winged headjoint and breathe hot life through. The first notes are dull and cracked, but as I warm up, the sound develops the silvery undertone that first enthralled me in fifth grade.

Later that night, the lighting is so bright that it makes me sweat, but my nerves might also be causing that. The low brass blast Gustav Holst's First Suite in Eb around me, and my flute keys make soft clicking noises as I silently finger through my solo. When the oboe comes in, the conductor catches my eye, prompting me to get ready. My friend sitting next to me softly squeezes my arm, wishing me luck as I inhale deeply and play. My smooth sound weaves into the oboes’ reedy tone, and together, the music floats through Baldwin Auditorium. After the concert, several Duke Wind Symphony players find me in the dressing room and congratulate me on a phenomenal performance.

My happiness cannot be credited to one activity, action, or human. Rather, it comes from the matrix of experiences, people, and memories that make up my life. They blend together like the cold smoothies my mother made for me after taekwondo practice or my teammates’ intermingled cheers when I told them about my placement at my last flute audition. I look for joy in every moment, no matter how seemingly random, because life is filled with joyous moments, from snoozy sunsets to invigorating competitions. From that, I live my life in happiness.

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