“The Pursuit of Happyness” tells the story of Chris Gardner, a single father, who despite being the top of his high school class, ends up a struggling salesman in his adulthood. But make no mistake, Chris Gardner is resourceful, determined and while being hurled with a series of cruel setbacks, maintains a pleasant and positive disposition.
Throughout the movie, I was consumed with anxiety as I watched the series of unfortunate events he had to go through in life. (Spoiler alert from here onward if you haven't watched this movie and intend to.)
His wife lost respect for him and abandoned him eventually. As a single parent, he had to juggle between his shitty job as a portable bone density scan machine salesman and providing his son as “normal” a life as can be, given his circumstance. He was evicted from his rented apartment and then hotel for not being able to sustain the cost. Queuing up at the shelter building, running after his stolen machine while lugging his remaining machine along. Being subjected to all sorts of pressure as an intern for a stockbroker company. The list goes on and on.
It was exhausting trying to keep up with all the trials and tribulations of his life. I would have broken down way before he did and yet, he managed to go through everything with grace and dignity. The best thing of all? He did not screw up his son.
Like most viewers, I cheered him on, waiting for him to succeed eventually. (Well, it’s an American movie. You’ve got to have a happy ending, right?)
Will Smith played the role well and what I thought was one of his finest acting career. That came in the final part, after he was told that he had been selected to work for the stockbroker company. He was teary when he heard the news before he walked out from his office building. Not having anyone to share this big moment with, he celebrated by himself right in the middle of a crowd. The triumph and happiness he felt were evident on his face and body language. It was really the defining moment of the whole movie. He finally got his happyness.
The movie got me thinking. The pursuit of happiness, what does it mean? Sure, everybody wants to be happy but in the end, how do you define happiness and is it achievable?
Now that I am older, I came to realise that most people I know, if not all, are somehow unhappy. There is always something wrong, or something to complain about and I came to the conclusion that, nobody is 100 percent happy. (Not exactly rocket science or a great mystery, I know.) But then, you know what? I also realise that nobody I know is 100 percent miserable as well. There is always something that makes us better off than someone else, in which we can all be thankful for.
Could it be that in our life, while we are not able to pursue 100 percent happiness, there are certain moments in life which will give us some form of happiness, even momentarily? Perhaps, we all need to understand that life is a constant challenge and we cannot hope or expect to have everything we want, but happiness does knock on our doors occasionally, and when that happens, we need to learn to recognise it in order to invite it in.
For Chris Gardness, the feeling of pure happiness came, when he was selected out of 20 interns, to work for a reputable firm. He will continue to face new challenges throughout his career but at that moment, he had it. It was in his hands.
Happiness comes in different ways and at different times. It comes when a child is invited to play during recess, when a girl is asked for a date by a boy she has a huge crush on, when a man marries the woman he loves despite years of rejection, when a baby is finally borne out of expensive infertility treatments, when a child does well in school despite the bullying, when a sick mother recovers, when a father receives a letter from his daughter in college, when someone receives a thank you card, when an old friendship is rekindled over a cup of coffee, when a peaceful death finally comes for a terminally ill patient.
Happiness comes in infinite forms, shapes, sizes and combinations.
We will all continue to face difficult times throughout our lives, but it doesn’t mean we can never be happy.
Happiness happens when you don’t seek to pursue it, but simply embracing it when it comes.
12 October 2008