The Day I Accidentally Stumbled Upon Happiness

An unexpected lesson on the good life — courtesy of butlers, painters, and my Portuguese professor.

Stephan Joppich
5 min readJul 15, 2023
Photo by mauRÍCIO SANTOS on Unsplash

“Why are some people so much happier than others?”

This question didn’t come up in one of my philosophy seminars but, unexpectedly, in Portuguese class. We’d been talking about the pretérito mais-que-perfeito do conjuntivo (the past perfect subjunctive) and had discussed a few examples. My professor said the easiest way to think about it is to imagine a person who completely wants to rewrite their past. They tend to use the past perfect subjunctive quite often. Like this:

  • “If I had won the lottery, I would be rich now.”
  • “If I hadn’t accepted that job, my career would have flourished.”
  • “If I had married her, I could have been happy.”

This awfully reminded me of my own thought patterns. I couldn’t help but think back to my life choices of the previous years: abandoning my engineering career, quitting a master’s in product design, trying to escape my problems in other countries, and finally returning to university to study languages and philosophy. Somehow, everything seemed wrong.



Stephan Joppich

Engineer turned philosophy student • I write about loneliness, minimalism, and books that changed my life • More food for thought →