What am I doing?
Is all this worth it?
Am I happy?
These are all questions I assure you we all as humans think about.
After multiple conversations with individuals ranging in different ethnicities, ages and, backgrounds it has come to my realization these questions make us uncomfortable and deserve inner reflection.
I thought I was alone with these questions. Heading into college for a major that sort of aligned with the principles and values I believed would make me happy. I chose Business Management; my reasoning was that one of life's goals is to make money and be happy. It seemed like a no brainier. Who wouldn't want to manage a business and have the luxury to accumulate wealth and do with their time as they please? My logic and reasoning is different and has evolved over years, this may not be its final product either. Through my 3 years at a community college I have noticed that many around me are complacent with accumulating student debt for a job that will give them *40 hours per week, subpar benefits while not placing their happiness as a priority. My views changed after reading self-help books, listening to different podcasts, and exchanging my stories with other individuals who were willing to listen.
There were times I felt overwhelmed in which direction I wanted to head in life. I looked around me and saw old classmates graduating college, others getting married, some flashing their opulent lifestyle for the whole world to see. I felt the excruciating pressure from my family. My father wanted me to be an engineer because he wanted bragging rights with his siblings and friends. He wanted to boast about how his first son surpassed him as he was only a handyman. My grandmother wanted me to be an engineer or architect so that I could build her a big magnificent house. My mother wanted me to be the president, to create change. I personally wanted to be a lawyer at a big firm in NYC, driving the fastest car and living in a beautiful loft overlooking the Hudson river.
All these were career choices that didn't suit me for one reason or the other. Fast forward to the present, I have one semester left to receive my associates degree. I am pursuing a career that despite its cons will be exciting, dynamic and will allow me to fulfill all of my life's goals without being attached to life’s vanity’s. Have I answered all of life’s answers and problems? No. Philosophers have been articulating what the meaning of life is and how to find happiness since the beginning of time. I’ll explain to you a bit of my journey and how tumultuous it has been.
The famous psychotherapist Carl Rogers at a meeting at Oberlin college in 1954 said “It seems to me that at bottom each person is asking, “Who am I, really? How can I get in touch with this real self, underlying all my surface behavior? How can I become myself?”
School: Ups and Downs
In middle school, I went to a small school and was on the honor roll every single month. I almost became the salutatorian of my class in Junior high, however I was beat by a girl who could care less about the recognition. I thrived in Junior high because of my ability to dream and not fool around in class like my classmates. My mother instilled education into us, making sure we always did our homework, checking our report cards and embarrassing us at parent teacher conferences with her Spanish accent. I was a well-rounded student involved in athletics joining the school basketball team, volunteering and staying out of trouble.
I went from a small middle school in Brooklyn which was a 10-minute walk from my families apartment to a 2-train journey to Queens with a high school of almost 2,000 kids. The coursework was rigorous. Girls started catching my attention. Smoking marijuana in an abandoned house with my friend became a daily habit. Only when I moved to Arizona did I come to grips with the seriousness involved with the last 2 years in high school and my future.
In Arizona, I did not know anyone therefore I had no distractions. I tried to get a job and was unsuccessful but my grades were starting to rise. I applied to ASU and was stupefied when they did not accept me. I thought I deserved to be there, I went through a harsh life transition and had to make an incredible turnaround just to graduate high school. ASU did not see my pain or struggle. All they saw was another statistic to their big machine but also a dollar sign and a pathetic GPA. That is when I realized that I had a strong disdain for the system. I did not understand the rising tuition prices and the unemployment and debt college students face once they graduate. I loved learning new concepts and finding solutions and patterns in everyday life. I did not like learning or cramming information to take a test once and to continue the cycle with another cram session.
My mother wanted her kids to go to college and be 'professional' members of society. She was an immigrant who graduated high school in the United States and attended some classes at LaGuardia community college. In comparison, my father has a 9th grade education and stopped going to school when he had to help support 6 siblings. My mother always pushed college down our throats like our least favorite food. Instead of asking what we wanted to do when we were older she asked have you looked at any colleges and their programs?
My point in my mini autobiography is to show that being trapped, pressured, and confused happens to everyone. When you aren’t able to view the endless options and you see something that everyone is doing that seems like a safe route it becomes easier and almost robotic to follow the crowd.
The vain.-- We are like shop windows in which we are continually arranging, concealing or illuminating the supposed qualities other ascribe to us - in order to deceive ourselves. Friedrich Nietsche
Three and a half years later I have come to the conclusion that a college education is not for everyone. A career is not promised after college, happiness is even less. I would have preferred an adult in my life telling me to get some work experience and to travel. In contrast, I spent money and time pursuing a college education everyone told me was right for me. When only I know what is right for me and what will bring me happiness.
Lift your head out the sand. I see dozens of people who graduated college full of debt, stress and anxiety. They enter the workforce to pay their college debt. They struggle to find a job because most jobs need some experience. They struggle to make ends meet and also struggle with their meaning of happiness. It seems like an endless loop hole.
Life will give us curveballs; it is unpredictable it does not matter if one is a control freak. Enjoy the journey in finding yourself and enjoying life. Enjoy life to what you love. And not what someone famous or someone recommended will give you happiness. Experiment with all the world has to offer, push the limits, internally and externally.
Be wise, listen to advice and tips but don't let it guide you.
Do not chase the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In other words do not follow money as a career choice. Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton concluded in their 2010 study that “high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.” Follow your heart and real passion. I chased high paying salaries such as an executive, lawyer, IT, and an Investment banker. In doing research all those fields has made me a well-rounded individual. I have been able to learn local state statues as well as business law. I learned how to create a text box with a pop up window. And I have also learned how to budget, save and invest my money in things I feel comfortable with. I do not regret venturing into new fields because of the money, because in the end I realized it was not for me and it brought me closer to my truer self.
Be yourself you don't want to be looking back and regretting a choice that has made you unhappy for the last 15 years. Hindsight is 20/20. I went into college without the faintest idea as to what I wanted to do in life. Didn't know about course requirements, transfer credits, and financial aid.
Don’t listen to what other people think or what society tells you what to do. Follow what your intuition tells you and what gives you the most happiness in this short story called life.
Carl Rogers wrote about the experience of becoming a person as “…the individual drops one after another of the defensive masks with which he has faced life; that he experiences fully the hidden aspects of himself; that he discovers in these experiences the stranger who has been living behind these masks, the stranger is himself.”
Look around you, there are countless outlets that dispel negative vibes. Those vibes come in the form of bad news: stock market fluctuations, celebrity scandals, presidential news, natural disaster and death. Shut all that out and experiment outside of technology. Travel, read a book, pick up a new hobby, learn a martial art, learn how to cook, and become self-sufficient.
This soul, or life within us, by no means agrees with the life outside us. If one has the courage to ask her what she thinks, she is always saying the very opposite to what other people say.
Hope in all places
I recently went hiking with my friend and her blind 13-year-old dog. While sitting down on a hill under a tree with a marvelous view, the dog brings over a ball. She looked at the dog and explained the current situation. The dog did not care, he wanted to fetch. She threw the ball uphill. He did not run after it. Instead he sat down, cuddled with her, and sniffed the natural landscape.
1 hour later.
We are laying down looking up into the clouds when the adorable dog comes stumbling to us with the ball.
The change will not happen right away it will take time. Be aware of society’s instant gratification be patient and let time work its wonders.
Inspiration/ Recommended listening and activities:
Wisconsin Public Radio “To the Best of Our Knowledge” podcast, episode “What is School For?”
NPR “Invisibilia” podcast, episode “Future Self”
On Becoming a Person by Carl R. Rogers
Writing whatever comes to your mind in a journal.
Big Five Aspect Scale created by Professor Jordan Peterson