During my time in Northern Ireland, I’ve been on a quest to open the massive, padlocked gate behind which happiness seems to reside. I’ve lately caught myself reading further into situations in an attempt to uncover the next key.
Most interactions with strangers, taxi drivers, and clerks result in the initial question, “Where are you from?” In my obvious American accent, I answer, “Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.” The next question is almost always, “Why did you choose to come here?” A hint of tiredness tinges the otherwise harmless inquiry.
I find myself shocked by the tone. I want to exclaim how much more beautiful the landscape is here than almost anywhere else in the States. I want to explain how all of the food is healthier, fresher, and just generally better. I want to show them how much more relaxed and family oriented Northern Ireland appears than the U.S.
It’s at this point that I catch myself thinking about the implied superiority of Northern Ireland to the States through my biased perspective. I’m inadvertently expressing negative sentiments to the States.
The truth is, while I appreciate my time in Northern Ireland, I miss my home state an incredible amount. I’m not particularly fond of the sodium-packed, preservative laden “food,” abysmal public transportation system, or lack of scenery. Still, I miss Pennsylvania and being in the States.
Why? I have come up with only one answer. While a place can be appreciated to a great extent, physical surroundings only bolster personal happiness so much. The most key element to peacefully existing in a place is people.
Who you share your happiness with far exceeds any physical space you choose to be happy in. Isolation in the most beautiful place will only ever breed disconnection and discontentment.
I love America because I love the people I left there. I originally thought I loved Northern Ireland because of its culture and landscape. While I do to a certain extent, the people I’ve met here and formed relationships with make me far happier than food and terrain ever could.
In other words, a world apart from your own will always seem shinier and somehow greater. Don’t let it be. See your own life the way a stranger would see it: as filled with great potential and deeply rooted love.