Sometimes, thinking about the unanswerable questions can be the most frustrating, yet most satisfying task to do. Towards the end of my eighth grade year, I was asked a thought provoking question. A question that continues to irritate me like a splinter. Too hard to remove, but too annoying to ignore.
It was the end of February, a time when the chilly winds of December and the gloomy clouds of January subsided just enough for the sun to shine through the scattered clouds and give off some warmth. It was the end of the school day, and one by one, all of my classmates left for home. I was running out of friends to talk to. Even though the conversations were usually meaningless, I still wanted to talk to my peers. (We talk, but never listen.) Of course, I ended up being the last student standing on the school grounds without a parent in sight.
I hated being the last person. Since I couldn’t leave campus, there were only two options left for me. The first option was to stand awkwardly next to my homeroom and theology teacher, Mr. Seibert, looking at the sky and the trees, and feign interest in the mundane world. The second was to awkwardly talk to him. I generally preferred the first choice out of the two even though the school grounds lacked good scenery.
Now don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t like Mr. Seibert and I despised each other. He wasn’t even a strict teacher. He was actually kind and gentle towards his students. The type of teacher lectured about whatever provoked his student’s curiosity. We would come up with questions that ranged from heaven to hell, and about everything in between. Yet even with his amiable personality, I was still intimidated by his great understanding of the world .
That evening, Mr. Seibert and I stood quietly in the middle of the parking lot for a few minutes. Then, he turn to face me, and we began the most thought provoking conversation of my entire life.
“What does it mean for you to be successful, Jennifer?” he started.
“To be successful, I’m gonna get a high paying job so that I can buy a large house and own an expensive car.”
“Will attaining those things actually make you happy? Because let me tell you now. Having a high paying job will probably make you unhappy. It’ll only stress you out. The big house you want will only end up being too big. It’ll feel lonelier. Once you buy an expensive car, it will depreciate and go out of style after a year.”
I tried to defend my idea of success saying, “At least those things will make me feel happy for a while.”
“Why are you trying to make yourself happy only for a moment when that moment of happiness will only make you feel emptier after it is gone?”
Mr. Seibert continued, “I just wanted you to think about it. Realize that happiness doesn’t always come from material goods.”
Just then, I spotted my dad’s old, bright green car pulling up to the front of the school’s gate. I couldn’t refute Mr. Seibert’s statement. Turning towards my teacher, I weakly told him that my dad had come to pick me up. He gave me a quick nod to indicate that I was allowed to leave, and said, “Okay, have a good rest of your day. I just wanted you to think about it. What is success, and will your idea of success make you happy”
For the past three years, I have thought about Mr. Seibert’s last question. There have been many occasions where I wonder what will make me happy, but to this day, I have not found the answer yet. Despite not knowing the answer, I have come to believe that the nature of man is essentially good since all of his actions are geared toward the one goal of finding true happiness. I have come to realize that humanity has yet to find true happiness, and with this realization alone, a feeling of satisfaction washes over me and eases the pain that comes from the splinter stuck in the back of my mind. I am not alone in my search for happiness. Everyone else is doing the same. We are all looking for our own small piece of everlasting happiness.