what makes you happy?

once there was this bus driver who greets each boarding passenger a good morning packed with enthusiasm and energy. everytime i see him, he glows. there was this buddha or santa claus glow that emanates from his layered muscle-fat physique. although his head is showing evidences of baldness, his face on the other hand is covered with a forest of white hairs that extends down to his chest. he possess this sing-song kind of voice that can make you feel happy and giddy but at the same time irked by his smile and overflowing happy aura.

also, on my morning bus travels, i always encounter this lady who beams her set of pearl-colored teeth as she showers every person on the bus with her snappy, high-pitched good mornings. imagine hearing “good morning!” “good morning!” every 2 seconds. that’s when too much positivity makes your ears bleed. she only stops when she finds herself a seat or an acquaintance to chat.

i remember one winter evening while waiting for the bus, a passing african-american lady provided an unsolicited warmth and glow to all the other passengers drugged with ennui. she strut a bouncy walk as she showcased her perfectly aligned set of teeth that seemed to absorb the light of the moon. as she hummed something gibberish, i imagined rainbows and butterflies come out of her ears and mouth. flowers started to grow on each spot that she set her foot on. and on her cue, every person waiting for the bus started to dance. her own brand of happiness spells surreal. her happiness was infectious, but an overdose of unsolicited happiness from a stranger on a winter night is not at all pleasurable. too much happiness makes me sad afterwards. screw that vicious cycle.

i always wonder what makes those people extremely happy. maybe they’re not happy as in happy happy. perhaps they’re just perky happy or maybe they’re just acting happy. whatever. i always find a raging river of happiness to be a great source of adventure and danger.

a few weeks ago, while touring old highschool classmate jhun downtown, we chanced upon la based photographer annie appel doing a photography project involving any people who wants to have their photos taken under the sun. she and her team had something that seemed like a tie-dyed backdrop set-up somewhere on pershing square where a diverse group of people come and pass. it’s a free photo session from a professional photographer, so we thought to give it a try.

“what makes you happy?” miss annie asked. that’s the initial question that you have to answer before you get your pictures taken. i could’ve answered the physical presence of someone but i answered on impulse based on what makes me happy that day. i told her taking pictures makes me happy. jhun said something about getting happiness from being with family members. miss annie noted our answers on her notebook. i think she plans to publish another book compilation of the pictures of random people she shot on pershing square. annie appel is not just a photographer, but also an artist who looks through the soul. after a few minutes of posing, miss appel handed us the polaroid copy of our picture taken from an old school polaroid camera that lets you view the images on the viewfinder upside down.

the polaroid photograph sure made us happy.

still, i wonder what makes other people shine with happiness.

i never saw the bouncing african-american lady again.

earlier this morning, i encountered the hyper “good morning” lady again, but his time, i got not even an ounce of good morning greeting from her. i am not used seeing her lips curled upside down with no sparkling teeth at all. this morning, the hyper good morning’s happy spirit was nowhere to be found.

a few weeks back i boarded the morning bus driven by the same bus driver who used to beam happiness and good morning greetings to each passenger. his head, including his face, was devoid of hair, and his glow, his buddha/santa claus like glow was absent. mister bus driver who used to be mister friendly bus driver was having a pingpong of arguments with some passengers. crankiness seemed to possess him. i miss the forest of hair that concealed the nasty intersecting lines of his face.

at a certain point, i tried to summon the courage to conjure the spirit of happiness and offer him even the faintest smile that i can give, but i failed.

the sudden change of atmosphere coming from those people who used to be extremely happy may seem tragic, but this only proves how the yin-yang relationship of happiness and sadness inevitably operates deep into our lives.

happiness is not just a choice, a social construct or a state of mind. it is a part of ourselves, a part of our lives, a part of an inevitable cycle of emotions that makes up our persona. given the fact that happiness and sadness may never be separated, i think one thing that we should learn is to keep the balance and harmony between the two.

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