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What Makes You Happy?
September 3, 2010  |  by Johns Hopkins Staff

Listening to Mozart while reading a book.

Going out to dinner, so I don’t have to cook.

Snuggling a puppy from my Lab’s new litter. Watching baseball when they have a good hitter.

Gathering family for good conversation.

Volunteering for the Child Health Foundation.

Solving a crossword or creating a rhyme.

Hugging my sweetheart any old time.
Jo Sack, wife of R. Bradley Sack, SPH ’68 (ScD)

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We are happy for the things we did. We are in our 70s and can no longer do the hiking/biking and sailing on the Chesapeake Bay as we did for so many years. One saying that keeps running through our minds and that keeps us happy is: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
—Henry, Med ’59, and Sherry Starr

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Slight chill in the air Spring Saturday afternoons Johns Hopkins lacrosse!
—Evelyn Alexander, A&S ’92

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“Summer afternoon. Summer afternoon. The two most beautiful words in the English language,” said Henry James. Looking at fluffy white cumulus clouds on their blue background and searching for pictures in the sky still brings me a childlike joy on a summer afternoon.
—Lois Halley, Bus ’92 (MS)

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Happiness is sitting in the front of the concert hall hearing and seeing the orchestra playing Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor after hearing it only on the radio since childhood.
—Sheila Cohen, A&S ’82

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Adam Sandler.

Late afternoon naps.

Uncontrollable baby belly laughs.

Hugs and kisses from loved ones.

Tear jerker movies that end happily.

Waking up slowly without a pressing need to get going.

Reading a good book, by an open window during a rainstorm.

Enjoying a performance so much that tears well up in your eyes.
—Jennifer Boon, wife of Alexander C. Boon, Engr ’03 (MS)

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When my 4-year-old son launches superhero-style onto my stomach from the arm of the couch, I am happy that I have abs to withstand the impact, and I am even happier that his joy can completely distract me from everything else.
—Stacy Gwatura, student in the School of Nursing

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A huge sandwich with extra cheese.
—Alex Wald, A&S ’08

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Knowing that there is a God . . . and that He cares about us.
—Stuart Fairfax Sands, Bus ’87 (MS)

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Playing the fife in Monumental City Ancient Fife and Drum Corps. The corps has taught me to love who you are, even if who you are involves dressing up like General George Washington’s army and blasting tunes on sticks with holes in them. Because that is what I think is awesome! And I’m proud of it. Do what you love. Love what you do.

Oh, and drinking water out of coffee mugs makes me happy, too.
—Emily Barone, daughter of Michael Barone, assistant professor, School of Medicine

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Happiness is . . . Home

Big sky,

Broad fields,

Winding drive,

Small house,

Blue mountains;

Calming view.
—Emily Beaton, Engr ’98 (MS)

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Strong cup of coffee

The promise of a new day

Realizing it
—Shane Steinert-Threlkeld, student in the Krieger School

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Spending time with family and friends makes me happy, as does being out in nature. Increasingly, happiness has more to do with finding contentment than with acquiring something.
—Sara Lazar, A&S ’89, a meditation researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital

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Some think it’s the cars, new clothing, and stuff which there never seems to be quite enough.

While others pursue the adrenaline rush in places exotic, exciting, and lush.

But a life full of purpose and meaning each day feeds my happiness needs in the very best way.
—Charlotte Eliopoulos, Nurs ’73, SPH ’75 (MS)

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Emotions under pressure so great they enter the heart like bullets, like water lying quietly in a pool but leaping from a fire hose with a force that knocks down doors. Macduff trying not to weep for his slaughtered family, a Bernini statue that seems to want to speak, Keats’ odes: These flood me with joy.
—David Kirby, A&S ’69 (PhD), co-editor with Barbara Hamby of Seriously Funny: Poems About Love, Death, Religion, Art, Politics, Sex, and Everything Else

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Happiness is a tangible peace at the core of the soul: a sense of calm joy. Rumi wrote that a moment of happiness is being “indifferent to idle speculation.” Moments of happiness offer solace in time of hardship and hope in times of sorrow. Happiness comes and goes, like waves of the roughest oceans—unpredictable yet constant.
—Wafa Khadraoui, student in the Krieger School and author of the blog “A Moment of Happiness: Wafa explores life as a History of Science and Technology/Neuroscience double major at JHU”

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The pure joy of relationships that knew me when.
—Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, mother of 2006 graduate Matthew O’Neill, and author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage Rowing at dusk down Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River

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Four oarsmen propelling a sleek, fast quad

Mimicking every motion of the rower before me

While Boathouse Row’s ancient structures shimmer in the setting sun
—Steven Asher, A&S ’69

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Gratitude is a sine qua non for happiness. I am grateful for my family and all the other wonderful people in my life. I was blessed with devoted parents who provided me with a medical education. As a physician I feel a great deal of happiness when I can relieve my patients’ concerns, anxiety, and help them improve their health.
—Richard Ellis, A&S ’57, Med ’61, retired physician who leads talks called “Secrets of Happiness” and is a member of the Fairfield, Connecticut Happiness Club

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Maryland summer

Sharing a bushel of blues

While watching the O’s
—Scott Najaka, A&S ’06 (MS)

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I am happy walking the Hoh River Trail on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington down to the Pacific Ocean.

Especially now that I am six years post heart transplant!
—Pamela Magnuson, Nurs ’71

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When a student tells me, “I feel like I can do anything.” There is amazing power in that statement!
Tracy Porter, Bus ’91 (MS)

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Adequate food, water, shelter, health, and education for myself, my loved ones, and all of humanity. And pinball.
—Adam Ruben, A&S ’08 (PhD), author of Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School

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Living in Connecticut and reading about Michael Bloomberg at Commencement extolling graduates to have one last Natty Boh at PJ’s Pub before heading off into the real world. It shows that Hopkins folks can have fun and be cool.
—Patrick Russell, A&S ’89

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Being exceptionally hungry and then getting served delicious Tandoori chicken.
—Siddharth Gupta, graduate student in the Whiting School

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Not having to turn on the alarm, snuggling before getting out of bed, sleep-warm babies crawling between the sheets, and realizing that everything is going to be OK.
—Brandy Monts Winn, graduate student in Advanced Academic Programs

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Observing my German iris bud unfold into a thing of beauty.
—Charles Nuttall, A&S ’67

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Happiness, for me, is adventuring, especially when the outcome of the adventure is unknown or unexpected, such as when exploring earth’s frontiers, researching a scientific mystery, discovering an innovative idea, creating a piece of art, crafting an original story, or sailboat racing in heavy wind!
—Elinor F. Downs, Med ’37

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I am most happy when my family are happy. Consequently, unhappy when one or more are unhappy. Being happy tends to have its ups and downs.

So, I believe being contented, which is a more grounded feeling, is more important. I may, at times, be unhappy, but still contented with how I feel about myself.
—Bob Cramer, Engr ’58

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The gift of each day that lets me bask in being alive. That is surely happiness.
—Genevieve Way

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Warm sun on my face after a cold winter; bike rides that empty the
mind of everyday worries; music and its accompanying flood of memories; the
unexpected touch of a child’s affectionate hand; doing a job well and knowing
it’s appreciated; the creative process of writing; and those tiny, too-fleeting
moments when all seems well with the world.
—Jeannine Johnson Maia, SAIS Bol ’88 (Cert), SAIS ’89

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ALLLL ABOARRRD!
The train rolling faster now
Unveils Canada

Tiny seashells waltz
In and out with the white surf
Diamonds at my feet

Happiness and joy
Tiny sprout growing each day
A new baby blooms
—Frances C. O’Connor, SPH ’92

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Happiness came unexpectedly as we solemnly entered Johns Hopkins Hospital in May 2006. Our first grandchild, Logan, was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Now 4, Logan is our family’s enthusiastic “CHO” with daily doses of the most genuine happiness you could ever imagine experiencing in your life. With his enduring smile he’s a constant inspiration of how far we can go.
—Gary Anderson

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Spending time with him
It’s unconditional love
My precious grandson
—Cheryl Oliver, an intellectual property supervisor with Johns Hopkins Technology Transfer

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Ice cream with daddy
Scoring a goal in soccer
Basketball team MVP
Hugging my mom at high school graduation
Teaching and counseling middle school students
Marrying a wonderful man
My baby boy’s first steps
Having an amazing 96-year-old grandmother
Living life in a loving family
Looking forward to a future of happiness
—Janice Eisenberg, Ed ’07 (MS)

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Happiness is utilizing my creativity and teaching talents. Happiness is sharing the excitement and anticipation of the 125 student and adult volunteers who create and sell our stained glass angels and suncatchers as we near our goal of $1,000,000. Happiness is knowing that all the money is being used for special equipment to benefit cancer patients.
—Bobbie Burnett, founder and president of Caring Collection (www.caringcollection.org), a nonprofit organization that creates stained-glass artwork to benefit cancer patients at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Anne Arundel Medical Center’s DeCesaris Cancer Institute

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• Seeing wild tooth marks in a fig I harvest in the backyard,
• Sharing ownership of my Ginkgo trees: watching little boys climb a perfect climbing tree (parents’ responsibility), neighbors lie beneath the limbs with their dogs, porch-sitters rave about the extravagant color,
• Running a small business that installs Ecocreto pervious concrete.

—Kay Kreachbaum Brooks, Nurs ’62

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Going the extra mile for friends, family, and complete strangers
• Listening and responding to my inner voice, especially when outside voices try to drown it out
• Seeing my kids make good decisions and survive less-than-good ones
• Hitting a high E on the alto saxophone in a blues riff
• Experimenting in the kitchen with a new recipe
• Seeing things from someone else’s perspective even when it is difficult
• Exercising . . . taking long bike rides . . . walking through the forest on an autumn afternoon
• Feeling the steady streams of water from a warm shower on the back of my head and neck after a vigorous workout
—Rolf D. W. Klemm, SPH ’85, ’03 (PhD), an assistant scientist with the Center for Human Nutrition at the Bloomberg School of Public Health

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Happiness is finding that hope in my life that can bring the rare treasure of peacefulness to my heart even in the most difficult of situations.
—Jason P. Paradis, a specialist with Johns Hopkins Technology Transfer

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God, my mom, my little bro, the air, breath, breaking dawn every day, ice cream in the 35° C of my town, the sunset on the Sinú River, enjoying a good book, the happiness of another person, God makes me soooooo happy.
—Ana Nisperuza

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Walking in Patterson Park with Carl and our beautiful black lab, Libby; throwing the ball to her and having her bring it back for another throw and another and another, then giving her a drink of water from the water bottle, then walking her home and having her enjoy a swim in her pool, while Carl feeds her watermelon or a Frosty Paw.
—Anne Belcher, an associate professor and director of the Office for Teaching Excellence at the School of Nursing

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Being surrounded by people who really want to be surrounded by you, and people like you. Oh, and Hopkins Band and Lacrosse (championships).
—Sarah Sanchez, A&S ’10

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Sunshine . . . anything in the sunshine. Gardening, reading, sunbathing (with sunscreen!), walking, eating . . . anything is better outside or at least next to a sun-filled window. I’m filled with so much more energy, hope, and happiness on sunnier days!
—Katie Fearon, Nurs ’09, is currently a MSN/MPH student in the School of Nursing

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Happiness is out there for the taking! I keep telling myself I need lots of money to be happy. The best things in life are free or cheap! Happiness is hearing someone’s laughter, especially a child’s, finishing a big project, hearing the ocean waves, dancing to some good music, being with family and friends, and so many more things.
—Patrice Hamilton, a student accounts coordinator at the School of Nursing

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just breath
with yoga
energy and peace
—Ruth Hurd, a financial manager in the School of Nursing’s Research Administration Department

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What makes me happy is just reading the Sunday paper by the beach near my house on Long Island, New York. I have an iced or hot cup of coffee in my hand and I’ve either finished work or I have a few hours of peace and quiet before I enter “The Rat Hole.” Sometimes the simplest things are the best items and times to treasure.
—John Morris

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Happiness is like a bright, sunny day whispering my name softly, surrounded by delicious food, trustworthy friends, devoted family, and tons of FUN!
—Deborah Whittleton, Ed ’86 (MS), ’04 (Cert)

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Waking up to the sound of rain outside the window and the smell of coffee in the air, sharing a hearty laugh with a loved one, making a donation to my favorite charity, completing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper in record time, a walk by the beach, romantic candlelight dinner, then sipping wine whilst listening to Miles Davis!
—Ginger Shu, a student at the Bloomberg School of Public Health

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Earning the most by giving it away!
—Mudassar Mohsin, Bus ’08

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Happy is when I
look at my beloved in
tender loving eyes.
—Catherine Cheung, A&S ’10 (MS)

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Dreamless sleep
On fluffy clean sheets
Cool cascading water
Tempering the tropic sun
Icy chilled fresh limeade
On a rainbow sunset beach
The beauty of all animals
The love of my parents and cat
Boundless and eternal
As the crisp mountain snow
And endless majesty of the seas
Our beautiful universe
Filled with possibility
And life everlasting
—Tabitha M. Totten

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Happiness is being retired, on Medicare, thermometer drops to 101 degrees, my 8-year-old toy Shitzu constant companion diva, my baby boy is 47 and his siblings 49, 51, 53, with 11 grands from 13 to 28—all of which leads to hopefulness that our economy, employment, environment, health care, Wall Street, immigration issues will improve for the next generations.
—Tucky P. Ramsey, Ed ’78 (Cert)

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True happiness results from experiences such as:
1. When results exceed expectations.
2. The release of tension upon reaching a worthwhile goal.
3. The realization that your life made a positive difference, no matter how small, in someone else’s life unrelated to you.
4. Being present when your children and grandchildren receive honors.
5. A long, healthy life enjoying your work and a quick death.
—Fritz M. Hessemer, Engr ’48

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Unadulterated happiness is riding my horse across the bridge in Griffith Park over the cement-encased Los Angeles River on a late spring afternoon. Riding toward the green velvet of the Hollywood Hills is a glaring contrast to the bumper-to-bumper lines of cars inching their way along the 134 freeway. It reminds me how lucky I am.
—Terry Lavell, Nurs ’70

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Sitting on my patio in the summertime, with the sound of crickets and birds, and having many hours to devote to my research without being interrupted by visitors or by the phone.
Waking up to see my children still sleeping and my lazy dogs in odd positions.
Having a conversation with my father, who is a wonderful intellectual.
Good cheese and wine, accompanied by a very good movie.
—Kristin Cook-Gailloud, director of the Program in French Language and Culture in the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures

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warm dozing kitten
purring softly on my lap
as I sip hot tea
—Jackie Sauter

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The simple things in life: being greeted by my big, hairy, slobbery Newfoundland, the first gulp of an ice-cold diet Mountain Dew, the deer in my backyard, listening to the barred owls in the woods behind my house, and (perhaps not so simple) having my patients tell me how much I have helped them and having my first novel be released in September!
—Carey Bligard, Med ’83, author (under the penname C. Allyn Pierson) of Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister

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The kiss of my husband in the morning, with a great hug! Later on a sweet cup of coffee brings a perfect morning!!
—Gaby Rueda

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Watching Hosta (not the flowering plant, but the name of my pet), a black
Labrador retriever and former guide dog, bred and trained by Yorktown
Heights, NY–based Guiding Eyes for the Blind, as she catches Frisbees
midair like a dancer in motion—so free and unfettered after early years
of service that embodies the potential of human-canine connection.
—Elizabeth Levy Malis, A&S ’83

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Thought-provoking articles that open new ideas or views that make an impact. Quiet, when the morning begins and life awakens and begins to stir. Caring people, who pursue what is right even if it creates strong opinion. Fresh caught sockeye salmon and fresh picked blueberries. The call of the loon on a still Alaska lake.
—Chuck Meagher


3 Comments


  1. Asha Swarup, PhD student, JHUSON

    Staying up all night with friends and laughing until my stomach hurts.
    Loading up on pancakes and then crashing after exams.
    The smells and sounds of my mother’s kitchen.
    Packing a bag for a trip.
    Holding my son’s hand.

  2. I walk through the springtime woods, on a path dotted with violets, blue and yellow. Some have heart-shaped leaves, some leaves like arrowheads. A single white trillium lights a glade – I almost missed it. Anonymous, unseen birds twitter and chirp. A hawk calls, then so does its mate, a little way away. The first hawk skims through the tree-tops, the sun glinting on his creamy chest. His mate calls again.

    We sit on the couch after a busy day. The cat in my lap presses my free hand with an imperious paw, drawing it closer. He rests his warm chin on my hand and falls asleep.

    My daughter calls and tells me her life is going well: she received another commendation at work. She emails: her boy-friend is a caring and warm-hearted man and never loses his temper. He loves her dog too. His parents will visit soon and we’ll meet them. I’m glad to hear how well her life is going now. And she still has a good job.

    It’s dawn. We’re retired. We don’t need to rise early today. A cat sleeps on my pillow over my head and my husband snores quietly. He turns over in his sleep and wraps one arm over me. I fall back to sleep too.

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