We’ve Lost Our Grip
Life is like a road map. When we are born we begin our journey, our road trip if you will, to our final destination. Like a road trip, the only point on our map that is predetermined is the one that we begin from. From there, it is our decision to decide where we want to go and how we want to get there. However the unfortunate reality is that the structure of life has become just that- too structured. In our capitalist society we have been raised and instructed to believe that the ultimate acquisition is money- how much can we get of it? The “he who dies with the most toys wins” mentality that dominates the average person’s life. This mentality skews the road trip; it shuts doors to what we may want to do with our lives. What truly makes us happy may be something that does not earn us as much money as, say, another, less personally appealing occupation, so we pass on it. True happiness is passed on for tangible goods. To relate back to the road map metaphor, the intense structure that characterizes our lives today is like using a GPS on your road trip. A predetermined path is laid out for you, with stops A, B, and C along the way. Whether or not you are taking the most enjoyable route on the trip is no longer a factor because the GPS told you the quickest, most efficient route possible, so that is how you are getting there.
So I ask, what makes life worth living? Is life a competition to acquire as many tangible goods as possible? Or is it something the average person is overlooking; is it to wake up every day knowing you are going to enjoy what is ahead of you?
This has been something that I have recognized but never truly thought about before this semester. A personal example is one that I just experienced the other day. Like most of us here, I am on my “structured” path through the university. I know that at this instant the most I can do to help myself find the best, highest paying job in the future is to do as well as possible in my classes today. However, just last week I had three exams in four days; stressful, yes, but nothing a UM student isn’t expected to be able to handle. Needless to say I did not do as well as I would have hoped on two of those exams. Since then I have seriously contemplated changing my major with no real assurance as to what I want to do. Under conditions of high stress, which naturally brings about depression, I was walking home from class and noticed a man on the side of the street raising money for a soup kitchen. Normally I would just walk right past him, but this time, I don’t know why, but I felt an urge to help him out. After I donated the man was extremely gracious and for reasons I could not explain I was immediately relieved from my stress. In fact I was in the best mood I’ve been in a long time- I was happy.
The purpose of this story is to demonstrate that I have realized that helping people is something that naturally makes me happy and even though it was something small it was able to overcome the stress of my “structured” life. Now I’m not saying that everyone needs to start helping each other more- that is not what this blog is about. I am saying that everyone has things that naturally make him or her happy, but sadly these things may be underutilized, forgotten, or even lie undiscovered because they are not part of the structure we were taught to follow.
Do these sources of happiness truly exist?
If so, are they worth pursuing?