During my freshman year of college, I realized something very important.
In the midst of new courses, unfamiliar professors, and hefty deadlines, I found myself adrift — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I was overweight; I had been since the beginning of high school, but it was beginning to haunt my self-image and confidence. Like many others, I was thrown into the daunting task of creating friendships, and stumbling my way into confusing relationships. I was put off by the suddenly immense workload, trying to balance my education and my social life — and I was lost within it all.
Then, after a whirlwind of a college introduction, spring semester hit, and I made a life decision, an ultimate goal, and I haven't looked back since. It drastically improved the rest of my undergraduate career, and continues to be a guiding force in my post-college life. I consider it my one golden rule, an underlying factor of all my thoughts and actions, and my most important realization.
It goes like so:
Short. Simple. Sweet.
This is my mantra, my daily reminder to strive for happiness and to accept nothing less. And although it may sound obvious, or like a given that most people have long-since adopted, it is important to remind myself of this on a daily basis.
During my freshman year of college, this rule of happiness became most prevalent in my outlook on body image and romantic relationships.
Instead of wallowing in doubt and hesitance, I recognized that I would be much happier if I focused on my physical activity and health. Rather than allow my negative attitude to perpetuate into other corners of my life, I joined my college gym, ate food that helped, rather than upset, my body, and bought clothes that made me happy when I wore them.
When it came to dating and relationships, I only saw people who made me happy. I went on dates with people who made me laugh, and spent my time on those who spent their time on me. If they didn't, I politely explained my issues, and ultimately discontinued the relationship.
To many, this outlook may appear to be inconsiderate, or even slightly selfish. Throughout our daily lives and in our society, we are constantly bound to social restrictions and bylaws that coordinate our interactions and alter our motives. Perhaps riding the subway doesn't make us the happiest commuters, but we have to do it. Re-explaining stories and situations to family over the phone isn't my favorite thing to do, but I do it anyway.
And certainly, there are scenarios where happiness may be, even for a fleeting moment, unattainable. An unforeseen loss, or an unexpected redirection, can throw any of us for a loop that seems to lack any hope for hope. This is where my mantra is most crucial.
There are things that we cannot control. The universe has this undeniable way of unfurling its omnipotent futures and making things so. However, in the situations that we can control — in the moments of time that we have in our grasp — it is so necessary to do what it takes to make ourselves inexplicably happy.
Only do the things that make you happy, and only surround yourself with those who make you happy. Do not sacrifice your happiness for anyone or anything else. Ask yourself, 'Will this make me happy?' If the answer is yes, then do it. If the answer is no, then don't.
This has found a particularly poignant presence most recently in the friendships I created in college. As four years passed by, at once incredibly quickly and thickly slow, I witnessed great friendships grow stronger, and greater friendships sadly crumble. Some of these were the friendships of others; many were my own.
Recently, someone published an article on why it's important to dump toxic friends, and I couldn't agree more.
There is a crucial separation between difficult friendships: There are those that are going through a rough phase, and those that are toxic. Certainly, friendships have their own fluctuations just as romantic relationships do, and not all friends will always experience smooth sailing. However, once your friend has begun to contribute nothing positive to the friendship, and has actually begun to make you feel unhappy or uncertain in your own skin — this is where the separation differs, and the divide needs to be made.
I say this as much for anyone reading this as I do for myself when I say: Do not feel like you need to remain in a friendship because of mutual friends, because of certain societal circumstances, or because of any obligation. If you would be happier outside of the friendship, then the friendship is no longer worth having. And if you have a friend that does not support your happiness, or that does not at least attempt to bridge the gap and explain his or her thoughts or feelings, then perhaps this was never really a true friend to begin with.
This is the result of a good deal of reflection, one that has accompanied my time since graduation, and one that I hope will continue to shape my thoughts throughout graduate school. This is simply another reaffirming of my mantra, one that is necessary in the confusion that follows as four years of one lifestyle coalesce into the birth of a new one. This is imperative for me to write, and I hope that is has been helpful to you, as well.
No matter where you are in your life — high school, college, or beyond — you will continue to grow and develop. You will be a constant glimmer, and the sparkles and shines may change colors and luminosity, but they will always be uniquely you.
And with this growing and developing, you must remember that happiness is yours for the taking. Find those hobbies that bring you to your bubbliest; locate yourself in a place that shimmers alongside you.
And while other people may make you very happy — and these are the people you want to keep with you always — never forget that the deepest happiness and serenity is found within yourself. Don't let it be taken away. Hold on tight, and help it grow.