By Briana Berkowitz
I’ve learned a lot in my time at Beloit — how to identify minerals, how to read and write Cyrillic, how to write a ten page paper in under 24 hours. These are all great things to know, and may be useful in my future endeavors, but truly, my future was much more influenced by a class I took on a whim last fall: Pursuing Happiness.
I have a lot of disdain for psychology, and over-sentimentality makes me cringe, but despite my reservations that this class would be just talking about what makes us feel gooey inside, I learned some of the most valuable and practical information out of any class I’ve taken here at Beloit (and being able to do a final project about the relationship of cupcakes and happiness didn’t hurt its greatness). I found out that happiness is a lot more complex than kittens and breakfast in bed: Happiness is something you have to seriously work at to attain, requires constant self-evaluation, and is influenced by a plethora of societal, biological and economic factors. Through happiness self-evaluations, various happiness projects (I discovered that actively trying to worry less and eating more vegetables is essential), and learning different philosophies on happiness, we learned how to deal with happiness both as an academic subject and a personal goal. What stuck with me through all of this is that in order to maintain happiness we have to both know ourselves and always strive for self-improvement.
Though these lessons have stuck with me in a subconscious way, I almost entirely forgot about the class and what I learned from it until I was in a session about repaying my student loans last week. Though repaying loans is some of the inevitable fun that comes with graduating, the things that were talked about at the session made me vaguely depressed for the hour that I was there. Making a weekly budget? Obtaining my dream job? Getting a good credit rating? Facing bankruptcy? While I know (most of) these things are in my future, the thought of seriously considering them right now makes me feel as though my youth isn’t just fleeting, but long gone.
What I realized after I had left and regained my composure was that, though I felt guilty for not wanting to deal with the intricacies of adulthood, there is no problem with me doing so. While some people may be excited to get their dream job and balance their weekly budgets, I’m not there yet and I’m quite content with that. The furthest I’m willing to look is 5 months down the road, when I will be moving to Spain for a year. There, I will be doing two of the things that me happiest in life: traveling and eating quality European cheese. In the next few months I will have to do some serious thinking and experimenting with what, as a new semi-responsible adult, I can do to find and maintain my happiness, and eventually make some decisions about how I can implement that through my long-term plans. It will be a process, and I definitely look forward to it.
While I can only hope things work out in my future, I do have a choice about consciously thinking about what makes me happy and how I can pursue it. I think that’s a pretty important thing that we, as well-educated Beloit College students, ought to consider, and even prioritize. The skills and ideas we learn in our classes are not the only important things in our future. Start thinking now about what you value, what makes you tick, and what you enjoy doing with your time. It will make for a happier now, and a better and more meaningful future.