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People often ask themselves what specific elements bring about true, everlasting happiness. Some say this divine state can be attained through family. Others say religion is the key. A reckless few might even settle for a bowl of vanilla ice cream. While none of these people are necessarily wrong, there is one overriding element that is criminally overlooked in these philosophical talks, and that is the powerful influence of sadness.

That may sound bizarre, but I make no qualms about endorsing the idea that the joy we experience is made possible because of the more despondent qualities of life. This is mostly because these negative qualities are an unavoidable part of our natural existence. No matter who you are or where you come from, you are most certainly going to encounter adversity in your lifetime that leads to sadness and heartbreak. While no one welcomes these kinds of disparaging encounters, the act of coping with and overcoming such adversity is something that defines us as individuals and that leads us on the path toward a greater sense of self- worth.

The average University of Ottawa student doesn’t have to look very far to recognize the powerful influences of sadness in the pursuit of happiness, since being depressed is what largely motivates us to succeed academically. This usually comes to pass whenever a crucial midterm or final exam is around the corner and we are forced to retreat into a state of being that is defined by nothing but stress, anxiety, and loneliness. While this period is almost unbearable at times, the pure awfulness of remembering meaningless dates, facts, and names in a dusty library is enough to convince anyone to buckle down and approach the upcoming test seriously, knowing that there is a sunny, library-free world waiting for you on the other side.

If you want further proof, consider the biography of your idols and role models, since many of these people had to deal with years of crippling sadness and uncertainty before they were able to channel these feelings into something positive. For me, comedian Louis C.K. perfectly represents this notion, since he has cultivated an impressive stand-up and television career through publicly exorcising demons from his past and present.

Additionally, you could consider the influence of someone like Malala Yousafzai. Throughout the last couple of years, the 17-year-old from Pakistan has become a beacon of hope for oppressed women worldwide because of her decision to chronicle her personal encounters with the oppressive forces of the Taliban.

Unfortunately, it is true that the necessity of sadness in the pursuit of happiness is only made relevant in retrospect, and it represents a difficult but necessary first step on the road to better times. However, if you are willing to weather this storm you will begin building the foundation for a new and better life.

Or, you could try the vanilla ice cream option. That could work too.