In the Declaration of Independence, three unalienable rights are asserted to all human beings: the right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Throughout our lives, we are in a constant state of pursuing happiness. We strive for perfection and create utopias in our minds that will inevitably let us down in comparison to reality. Happiness is dependent upon being in utter control of your own mental state, not relying on others to feel purposeful, and living in the present instead of trying to plan out your entire life.
Your own personal happiness is often thought to be reflective upon your specific life circumstances; this, however, is not the case. According to a study conducted by the University of California, a person’s specific genes and life circumstances only account for 50% of a person’s mental state, indicating that the other 50% of someone’s happiness is completely in control of that individual. The choice to be happy is one that everyone should and is able to make for themselves.
High school and college are critical points in our lives for finding ourselves and figuring out the kinds of people we want to be and the kinds of activities and people with whom we want to surround ourselves. With all this in mind, we begin to find certain things that we truly believe make us happy. They make our lives feel purposeful and whole for the first time. Everything seems perfect; only it is not. Your best friend moves away or your girlfriend breaks your heart and you realize that all of those things that made your life feel meaningful or exciting were based on other people, leaving you seemingly powerless over something as paramount as your own happiness and well-being.
By saying, or even thinking, things as ostensibly sweet and innocent as, “He is the reason I am happy,” you are effectively giving someone else the power to dictate your happiness, which no one else should be able to control. It is one thing to feel happiness around certain people, but it is completely different to depend on someone to make you happy. Often, we are faced with the fact that the only things keeping us happy are temporary.
“I feel good about myself when…people are making me feel good about myself, or when I’m getting positive attention, ” said a sophomore girl at All Saints’. “But as soon as those moments fade, my confidence goes away along with them.”
It can be easy to create a version of yourself within someone else and ultimately, who you are around that person overpowers your own identity. Because of the evanescent nature of people and stages in our lives, eventually you will be left wondering who you are outside of your friendship or your relationship, making it hard to see yourself as an individual.
Most importantly, we cannot diminish our individuality just because it is easy to define ourselves based on someone else. The only way to ever truly obtain happiness is to find within yourself the distinction between surrounding yourself with happy, positive people, and letting your happiness be determined by said people.
As students of a college preparatory school, it is easy to become engrossed with the stress of our futures: Where we will go to college? What will our major will be? How will we be able to manage our heavy course load, designed to get us into these colleges? This is not to say that being prudent is in any way not valuable, but there is a cardinal difference between planning ahead and letting your future dictate your whole life.
As Mark Schwahn wrote,“It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday. And then quietly and without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And that someday is yesterday. And this is your life.”
We get so caught up in comparing ourselves to others and envisioning our own idea of what we want our lives to look like that we lose sight of all the beauty and joy in our own lives, causing us to forget to enjoy our fleeting youth.