Let me ask you a question. Are you happy right now? And if you’re not, why?

I don't mean to be intrusive. Let’s call it curiosity. I’m really listening, and I’d really like to know. Are you happy? Can we talk about it?

Recently I’ve devoted a lot of thought to the enigma of happiness because I find that there are few moments in the hastiness of daily comings and goings that we actually pause and reflect on how we feel. So rarely are our intimate feelings the topic of casual conversation that when I ask myself to reflect, I’m often disconcerted because I don’t know the answer. And yet it is an important question, perhaps one of the most important questions we’ll ever ask ourselves. The quest for happiness is a universal desire that has held appeal for as long as humans have been around. Millions of people watch Ted Talks that debate the path to happiness or read infinite self-help books that give sometimes sage and other times useless advice on how we too, like the author, might discover happiness.

Yet in spite of our attempts to discover the secret of a happy life, how often do we truly self-evaluate and consider our mental state? Do you ever stop while on that awful walk from Bostock to …well anywhere really, and ask yourself, "Hey me, how am I actually feeling?" Do you know the things in your life that bring joy and those that don’t?

Perhaps you know the answers to these questions as well as you know your major, your coffee order and that feeling when there is no line at Pitchforks. Or perhaps the answers to these questions are as elusive as ever. Both of these feelings are okay, because the ironic, unfathomable thing about happiness is that it is inherently subjective. No self-help book can give you the definition of happiness because the right to that meaning is ours, wholly and irrevocably ours. Not only do we determine what it means to discover happiness, we also determine whether we’ve fulfilled that definition in the pathways we choose. How we perceive happiness may morph based on the struggles we undergo or the values we decide to prioritize. However, beyond the primal emotional feeling of joy, the pursuit of happiness is ultimately the pursuit of understanding ourselves, our interests and the things we feel matter. Happiness is ours, always. And sharing our mutual struggles in this discovery stage can only better our understanding of the human condition.

I wish we talked about our definitions of happiness more to each other. It is all very well to know the labels that make up people’s personalities, but I think when you know the moments that inspire happiness in another person, that is when you see into their authentic souls. Perhaps most revealing are the converse—those moments of unhappiness and struggle—because they tell us when our choices conflict with some other intrinsic value inside us. How comforting it would be if we shared these moments and articulated them without fearing that others might judge us and find us wanting.

For me, I know my happiness is somewhere at a cross between doing the things I love best and doing things that might leave the world a little better than when I entered. I’m happiest when I write, or throwing myself into spontaneous situations with new people in strange places that made me slightly uncomfortable. And I'm unhappiest when I try to mold my personality to comply with standards set by others or when I'm surrounded by competitive people that prize achievement above moral.

I would not always dare share so much in real life. Even if we wanted to speak openly, opportunities to do so can easily pass us by. Broaching the subject of happiness takes vulnerability and vulnerability always takes courage, courage that is hard to rustle.

But here, reader, I want to tell you about a space where you can talk about how you are feeling and have someone listen, quietly listen without judgment or rebuff. It’s a modest little space, but it’s safe and was built on the experiences of three Duke students who wanted to be vulnerable but were unsure were to turn. They created Peer for You, an online service where Duke students can anonymously send messages to a diverse team of undergraduate peer responders who listen and offer responses based on their own experiences at Duke.

Why am I shamelessly advertising about Peer For You in my column this week? Because I want Duke students to know such a resource, in a school with so many people struggling to understand their version of happiness exists. Apart from CAPS, I want Duke students to know that there is a place you can be vulnerable without encountering indifference. I want Duke students to know if you falter, if Duke gets to you or if you don’t know who will listen, a group of students are here for you, always.

Because I messaged Peer For You once when I had nowhere else to turn, and they listened.

Bella Kwai is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Friday.