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How I Got Happy Developing a Class in Happiness

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Great is the irony of designing a brand new class in happiness. Because as you will see if you read the computer diary that I kept when I first started developing the class back in June of 2010, I was decidedly not very happy when I began developing the class.
I told my husband the other night that developing this class (at the University at Albany, SUNY) has been one of the best things I have ever done in my life.
It has TAUGHT ME VERY IMPORTANT LESSONS ABOUT HOW TO BE HAPPY. I would like to thank my husband, Richard Kirsch (one of the most optimistic people I know and a principal player in the long and difficult fight for health care last year) for suggesting that I keep a journal as I started to do the reading and thinking that I needed to do for this class, which begins two weeks from tomorrow on January, 19, 2011.It took months and months, first to do all the reading that I needed to do, and then, to assemble the syllabus. And then, it took an equal number of months to get the class through various comittees and subcomittees and Dean's and departmental offices etc. You have no idea what a bureaucracy a university can be.
Then I had the equally trying task of getting all the paperwork completed to post the class in the course catalogue on the University's on-line registration system.
It wasn't until last week that we finally crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's and got the class ready for registration.
As I have started to reread the journal -- it is 43 pages, single-spaced, on the computer -- I am reminded of a couple things: a) when I started developing the class I was really quite depressed, and b) I kept praying for happiness.

So you could say that my prayers for happiness were answered by starting a happiness class.

I want to thank my supervisor, Maritza Martinez, in the Office of Academic Support Services at the University at Albany, SUNY, for her continued support during this long and often torturous process.
It was very difficult at times to continue believing that this was the right thing to do. But Maritza just kept reassuring me that everything would be fine, and that I was doing the exactly the right thing, developing a new interdisciplinary class that could, through cognitive skills, help students to understand what would make them happier.
At one point last June, as I was describing to her some of my fears and my hesitations about the class (including the fact that the class could turn into a giant therapy session which I did NOT want!) she very calmly listened to me. She acknowledged my fears and then she calmly slid a book across her desk to me.
The book is called Feel the Fear And Do it Anyway, by Susan Jeffers, which Maritza was using for the summer program that we offer to our students as part of the Educational Opportunities Program at the University.

That book's title was precisely the message I needed to hear. I needed to feel the fear but do it anyway.

So, THANKS MARITZA!

The first entry in the diary originally ran as an essay on the Huffington Post. But it is the second diary entry that really captures the irony of this endeavor. Here it is, called, "Who Me? Teach Happiness? But I'm Depressed!"

P.S. The very good news is that I'm NOT depressed anymore and haven't been for many many months.

Follow Claudia Ricci on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RicciCJ

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