How Do You Know if You're Happy? - Reel Stories


In Reel Life we get plenty of Reel Stories that are too inspirational not to share, which is why we will be starting a new series of posts called Reel Stories. These stories are shared by humans as they journey through life. Through their accounts we strive to unite virtuous, sincere artists and audiences to inspire truth, understanding, hope, and reform, within themselves and the world, in a beautiful, powerful, and enjoyable journey through the media arts.

The first story is from Humna Tariq who ventured to find where true happiness comes from.

Ask yourself a serious question. When was the happiest you ever felt? Was it when you got into college? Was it when you got married or landed your first job? Was it when you won that science competition?

How about we measure happiness… literally. If you were so happy that it brought a smile to your face, let’s say that’s one unit of happiness. If something caused you to gleefully jump or dance, let’s say that’s 3 units. If you threw yourself a party let’s say that’s 20 units. If you threw yourself a party that cost over $500, let’s measure that to be 100 units. If you got engaged let’s say that’s 250 units. If you got married that’s 500 units. Now calculate the recent 12 months of your life, of every instance that made you smile, every time you danced or threw a party, or started a new chapter in your life. What number does it come out to be?

Don’t read further on until you’ve calculated your units of happiness.

Ok did you calculate it?

Now divide that number by three.

Times it by four.

Raise it to the seventh power.

What’s your number now?

Now take that new number and divide your birth year with it.

Now here’s the surprising part. If you actually took the time to calculate your total units of happiness within the last 12 months, you’re not happy. If you were truly happy, you would’ve condemned my urge for you to calculate your happiness within the first sentence of my previous paragraph. You learned something about yourself here; that your happiness is contingent on your external circumstances, not from within you. You actually measured the time you got engaged or the time you threw yourself a graduation party or each time you remembered you smiled. Fun fact, misery masks itself behind smiles all the time. So what’s my point here?

Do you think it’s possible to get fired from your job whilst maintaining your happiness at the same time? Well of course not. But you have to understand that your happiness is your currency. If you invest it in the right places, you won’t be detrimentally disappointed even if there is a loss.


My name is Humna Tariq. I used to invest my happiness all the time in worldly things. I went to a really great college, I was blessed to be awarded with enough scholarships to carry me through school, I have a great 9 to 5 job and I love my black coffee in the morning before leaving for work. If you go on my Instagram, my life seems fantastic. It’s full of high quality photos and nature photography with me posing on top of mountains and kayaking in rivers. If you met me in person, you’d say I’m very extroverted, I’m eloquent in my speech, I’m compelling, clever and smart. But I’m not any of that. I am not what I am, I am who I am. See the difference?

Behind those photos of me climbing mountains is a girl paying off her student loan she took out the year her brother passed away in a car accident. Behind my academic success is a girl who had to work harder than most other people because there was no safety net for her to fall into and no father to step up to pay for her college education. Behind my morning coffee tradition is a girl plagued by racing thoughts every night about how to deal with heartbreak while keeping her composure in front of her loved ones. Behind my extroverted personality, you’ll meet a girl who was largely neglected by those who should’ve loved her for being her father’s daughter.

The most pivotal point in my life was my brother’s death. Never in my life did I ever feel a larger sense of inconsideration, neglect, injustice and heartbreak. I felt that my life was going terrific up until that point. I’ll never forget the last time I talked to him. He called me up on April 15th 2016 asking me to review his college paper for any grammatical errors. About a day and a half on from that phone call, he was dead. It happened at roughly 3:45 AM in the morning on April 17th 2016, when his friend was driving recklessly at the speed of 105 mph and broke a red light. Within seconds of that crash, my brother was unconscious, his friend alive and well and…. fleeing the scene. Fleeing from the car accident he had just caused. Not helping my dying brother in any way. Not bothering to drag him out of the car, not bothering to check his vital signs, not bothering to stop his bleeding. It was minutes after his fleeing that a second car finished my brother.


The heartbreak was difficult to deal with, but the sense of injustice that followed was grueling. Soon enough Ramadan came around the corner. I refer to my brother’s friend as a killer. While he didn’t do it intentionally, it was no accident either. Recklessness is not considered an accident. And each night I saw the killer’s family walk into the halls of the mosque that my brother used to lead prayer in. Each day they marched in heartlessly knowing full well that the sights of their faces could possibly upset my grieving mother. I saw the killer’s sister mingle with her friends with her life un-phased. I saw the killer’s mother with my own eyes, smile. It was in that woman’s smile that I felt an acute sense of unfairness and misery. I thought to myself, her son killed my brother, why is it that the killer’s mother gets to smile while he wiped the smile off of my mom’s face? Why does she get to walk into this mosque that my brother led prayer in and see my mother’s crying face, and she not shed a tear for the pain her son has caused? Of course friends would tell me all the time, but what if she’s unhappy too? I’d tell them, if she truly felt the weight of the heartbreak her son had caused my family, she wouldn’t walk into this mosque knowing full well that my mom occupies a space here in trying to find peace. She would know that her presence would be counter-productive in my mother’s attempt to find peace.

It was a resounding, flattening and harsh reality of seeing that woman’s smiling face that humbled me out of my happiness. The units of happiness behind each of my smiles amounts to zero. My elder brother got married soon after our family tragedy, the units of happiness in that wedding amounted to zero. I graduated college two months after my brother passed away, my units of happiness amounted to zero. To simply put it, my amount of heartbreak was…. immeasurable. Nothing brought me peace. I wasn’t happy when I walked across that graduation stage, I wasn’t happy when I landed my first job out of college, I would barely smile when someone congratulated me. But nonetheless, you couldn’t have known how unhappy I was unless I told you.

I found the only thing that ever gave me peace was having my forehead touch the prayer mat. No one can comprehend, empathize or even slightly imagine how much I miss my lovely brother, yet the only thing that holds back my tears is knowing that they can cause my mother to cry. I found out where my happiness ought to be invested. It wasn’t in anything around me, but within everything inside of me. Most of all, I found happiness within my resilience that Allah instilled in me.

Everyone has a story. You never really know about the silent struggles of your peers… but that’s what humanity is about. Simply assuming that everyone has a story and offering them a safe haven to invest their happiness can make a world of a difference.


Keep it Reel!


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