“When was the last time you just felt happy? Not fine, but truly happy?”

The first time someone asked me this it alarmed me like a bus horn alarms you when you are standing in the middle of the street not paying attention to your surroundings.

I thought of a night with my friends, less than a week ago, when we had a good time. I remembered laughing myself to tears – but was I happy? The company was good and the situation was comfortable, but I still don’t think I was actually happy.

I dove deeper into my memory to find a truly happy moment. The next instance that came to mind was an exam where I received a far higher mark than I had expected. But again, this was not happiness as much as satisfaction.

My friend’s engagement, last year’s grades, the guy who told me he likes me, my cousin having a baby. They are all “happy” memories, but not the happy I mean.

I finally found my moment of happiness – it was two years ago. My mother was unwell and we wanted to call someone to come take her blood pressure. I tried calling our pharmacy but they didn’t answer. Then I remembered that our neighbor was a doctor, so I took the elevator and went up to her apartment only to find no one there. On my way back to our apartment I closed the elevator to find this flyer glued to the elevator door promoting the new pharmacy that had just opened across the street. “Doctors to measure the blood pressure are available,” it read.

The happy I mean is when my friends surprised me with a present a week after my birthday, or when, out of nowhere, on a day I felt grumpy, a stranger told me, “Has anyone told you your smile is beautiful, it is; do it often.”

I find happiness in good things that happened to me by chance, like spontaneous outings and all the good gifts I never expected.

But I also realized that happiness can be a choice; the deliberate decision to focus on the good things in one’s life, to notice the details that we take for granted: to notice that you are healthy enough to spend your day without being hooked up to medical devices, to appreciate the people in your life who love you, or to know that we still have a reason to wake up for.

You may get tired and weary. You may work hard for such a long time that you think your breaking point is creeping nearer because of all the pressure you are going through. You may feel like a failure and like doors are closing in your face. Happiness may seem too difficult to achieve when you are focused on just staying afloat. But, believe me, we all have those dark days and we all have happy memories to retreat to.

Sometimes it’s all about believing. Believe that “this too shall pass” and that you will create more happy memories to reference when someone asks you when the last time you were happy was.

Mariem Sherif is an Egyptian medical student who believes that words can heal a wound, that in each and every one of us there is something special and that in details lies another great different life for those who notice.

Look at these beautyful illustrations by artist Jiiakuann inspired by the fashion world…

Jiiakuann_1 Jiiakuann_10 Jiiakuann_16 Jiiakuann_Maiso-Margiela-Prada

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