Choosing to be Happy

Brett - Idaho Falls, Idaho
Entered on May 12, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Happiness, a choice

I believe that we have the ability to determine our own happiness. I believe that regardless of our situation, that we can decide – either to be happy, or not to be happy. I want to illustrate with an example from my own life. Though it may not be indicative of the challenges faced by everyone, it is telling.

I can recall times where my situation could have caused me to be unhappy. I remember a particular day. My brother and I sat, opposites at our dining room table, assembling a miniature army of robots across an imaginary battlefield. Lying piece by piece, machine by machine on the table, I secured the perimeter around our “base”, while my brother ran through the weapons payload and technical schematics of our fighting team one last time. A common enemy approached, and I began to breathe faster in response to my increased heart tempo. I carefully lay the last of our fighting machines on the table, taking special care not to let it slip from my moistened hands.

My brother and I had received reports from an inside informant that an enemy militia, known only as “Dad” was approaching, and that he was anticipating our battle preparations.

“Dad says that if you’re not ready when he gets home, he may not have time to play tonight!” our informant, code named “Mom” told us matter-of-factly from the kitchen, where she was preparing our evening rations.

“We’d better hurry” I told my brother.

“Yeah, I’m almost done” he responded.

My battlefield preparations were complete. Our army was immaculately positioned for a defensive engagement around the objective: a hardened bunker containing dice, the last of our carrot stockpile, and unused battle robots.

My brother and I knew that our enemy was notorious for his rapid battlefield deployment, and the swift and ruthless manner in which he defeated armies of opposing forces. I was optimistic.

“I think we can beat him this time.” I said to my brother.

“I dunno. It’s hard to tell what he’s going to do!” my brother laughed, and we continued with our preparation.

Hours later found us at the table, inviting our enemy to engage us, asking if he was ready to “play” yet.

“Boys, I don’t think we’ll have time toni-“

My heart sank. I had been looking forward to this opportunity all day. In frustration, I vaguely remember wanting to weep. No, I remember weeping. Loudly. All the preparation, the anticipation, the excitement, all for naught. Did he understand that he had just ruined our day? What were we going to do now?

“-ght…but if you leave it up…” my father continued. He raised his voice to make himself audible over my wailing.

“We can play on Saturday, ok?” he finished.

“That’s fine.” My brother said with a smile. “C’mon Brett” he said, patting me on the back as he passed me, and then motioning for me to follow him to the living room.

“Aren’t you upset?” I asked Peter.

“No, we get to play on Saturday you dummy!” he declared. “Just don’t be upset about it.”

I lightened up, dried my face, and, eventually, we enjoyed the evening.

I still remember the following Saturday, and the fun we had getting destroyed by my father in an enormous robotic clash. I’m glad I chose to be happy.