The Collegian
Friday, June 09, 2023

When will you find your happiness?

A few weeks ago I was riding the Metro home from my summer internship in downtown D.C. when the most terrifying thing happened to me. A man entered the doors directly to my right, dressed in all black with a book bag that looked uncomfortably heavy.

At first his words were soft and kind. As he began quoting the Bible, I laughed and rolled my eyes as I kept reading my book. But then his voice changed. It became harsh and loud, and he was yelling with a fierce look in his eyes that was truly paralyzing.

"Today is the day that you will all die," he said. "Say goodbye to this world. Only God can judge you now," were the last words he said as I sat still as a stone, utterly terrified.

I remember thinking, "F*cking great. This guy has a bomb in his book bag and now I'm going to die because Captain Crazy was fasting too long and saw Moses and pals appear in a burning bush in his backyard that spelled out 'Blow up the Metro tomorrow.'"

Lucky for me, my Metro stop approached moments after the man finished his Doomsday speech. Regardless, I was shaken up by the experience and it really got me thinking about my life and the fragility of life in general.

It wasn't until I heard about the death of Jamie and Paige Malone that I was ambushed with the reality that life is so incredibly unpredictable. I couldn't fathom how two young, healthy women could be taken away so abruptly from the world when they clearly had so much more to get out of life.

If any good lessons can come from a situation such as this (and trust me, you have to look pretty damn hard to find the silver lining in this one), it would be that it is imperative we not take a single day for granted.

I think it is with reckonings such as these that we find ourselves looking in the mirror wondering, "If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, would I be satisfied with my life today?" And I don't think I'd be assuming too much to think that many of us would respond with a no.

Ted Leonsis is a man who knows a thing or two about reckoning and, as a result, re-evaluating and changing his life thereafter. Leonsis, a prominent businessman, philanthropist and sports franchise owner, was a self-made millionaire by his late twenties. In his book, "The Business of Happiness," Leonsis said his day of reckoning came on a flight to Atlanta when he was 28 years old.

According to his book, Leonsis was seated on a plane that was experiencing some technical difficulties. The pilot needed to perform an emergency landing, but there was too much fuel in the plane to land safely. After flying around until the fuel burned off, with technical difficulties still an issue, the plane began to prepare for landing.

In his book, Leonsis recalls pleading with God to let the plane land safely. He promised to give back to others and become a better person. As he pleaded with God to save him, he realized something monumental. He was young, he was rich, he was potentially about to die and he was incredibly unhappy.

He realized how much of life he had taken for granted and how much his drive for success had been smothering his personal pursuit of happiness. It dawned on him that death would have seemed so much less daunting if he had been happy and yet there he was, begging for an extension on his life.

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As a result of this harrowing experience, Leonsis made a decision. He decided to write a list, a list of all the things he wanted to do before he died: things that ranged from falling in love, to giving back to his community, to going to the MTV Awards. He realized that although some of the things on his list wouldn't make him happy, the journey he took to complete many of the things would bring him great joy.

As of now, Leonsis has completed almost every task on his list. It is evident that he has become a very happy person and successful businessman. He doesn't attribute his success or happiness to the list, but says that his success manifests itself from his quest for happiness.

Leonsis was given a second chance at life. Unfortunately not everyone is so lucky, which is one of the reasons why I think it's so important to relish each day as it comes and pursue happiness in all its forms.

Although many of you, myself included, may have never had the pleasure of knowing Jamie and Paige Malone, it is obvious that no one on this campus has gone unaffected by this inconceivable tragedy. It seems evident that the Malone sisters truly understood the meaning of happiness. It is even more apparent how much happiness they have clearly brought to those who knew and loved them.

Contact opinion editor Liz Monahan at liz.monahan@richmond.edu

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