The Collegian
Saturday, May 18, 2024

Pursuing happiness

In a world of opposites -- hellos and goodbyes, cause and effect, life and death -- there is one pair of opposites that I think deserves special attention: you and everybody who isn't you.

Where do we draw the line between what we want and what other people deserve?

How do we choose between what would benefit our needs, while taking the needs of others into consideration?

For example, say you're in a relationship with someone really great. Say you have a lot of fun with that person and he or she has made college very enjoyable for you (and, assumedly, vice versa).

However, you know deep down that your number-one priority right now is landing that public relations job in Seattle at the Starbucks headquarters.

Say you get said job and are told to be ready to leave for Washington in a month's time.

It just so happens that your loved one is taking an extra semester to graduate because he took a semester off sophomore year to "go find himself" by sky diving and snorkeling and things of that nature.

Now, it's decision-making time. Do you stay with him and go to Seattle, somewhat tied down?

Or, do you end your relationship? Ever-sad, yet knowing that there is a city of opportunity and mystery awaiting you.

Let me give another example that applies to you and a larger group of people.

Say you, as many twenty-somethings tend to do, want to go to Europe after graduation.

You've been saving up for months and you can't wait to visit some really good friends that you made while abroad.

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Coincidentally, your friends are planning a big end-of-the-school-year trip to Maui.

You'd love to go, but you've had your heart set on this trip to Europe. Your friends tell you they'll be devastated if you don't go.

It's the end of senior year. Who knows when they'll see you again?

Do you bag your trip to Europe and head off to Maui with your friends, spending all the money you saved on jet skiis and clubs named Volcano?

Or, do you tell your friends that you need to do something for yourself before you have a big commitment like a job?

Do you do what's best for your growth as a person or what's best for your friendships, some of which you've fostered for four years now?

On one side, you've got to remind yourself that A) this is the time to be selfish because when you're a full-fledged adult with responsibilities that include work, children and a husband or wife (note: I understand that these are not mandatory lifestyle choices, but simply the more common ones), thinking about yourself isn't as simple, and B) if this is in fact the only life we live, why wouldn't we make every decision based on whether it would (seemingly) bring the most happiness or long-term joy into our lives?

On the flip side, I think it's important to continually remind ourselves that the decisions we make inevitably affect the people that we care about.

So maybe it's not a matter of, should I consider my own happiness over everyone else's, but rather, do I care about this person enough to re-define what happiness can mean for me?

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines happiness as "a state of well-being and contentment."

It also defines selfishness as "seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others."

I certainly think it's possible to be happy without being selfish.

I just also happen to think that at this stage in our lives, it is difficult for many of us to find a good balance.

Do I do one thing because it feels right, or do I do another because it is right?

I think it's best not to look at the world in terms of opposites. Perhaps the world is a bit less black and white, rather varying shades of grey.

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