By: Max Bruns ~Advertising Manager~
Happiness is an action verb, and we are both the subjects and the objects. Obviously, this is not grammatically true, but the philosophical sentiment stands – we must actively work for our own happiness.
Recently, a friend of mine asked me if I would do college again if I was given the chance. He didn’t mean start all over and take a second shot at my undergrad. He meant literally enroll in four more years. Unfortunately for me, my immediate answer was a resounding and absolute no.
In two and a half blurry years, undergraduate college has proven to be a hard-fought battle for educational freedom amidst the hardships of date rape, heartbreak, psychological and physical decline, systemic oppression, identity crises and intense family issues. But when I said “no,” to my friend, none of these things even came to mind.
The immediate reason for my hard pass was actually the result of all of these things: while they have all been themes in my life in the past two years, they should not define me. They should not have created in me the jaded and hardened individual who is struggling to find himself again. And yet they have, and that’s why I said no to my friend.
I did not list all these weighty issues that I have faced during my college experience to depress anyone. In fact, all of these things are pretty universal experiences for young adults, according to countless studies and surveys and general explorations. In fact, the reason why I have listed all these issues is because I have come to realize something very deeply human about happiness, joy, love and hope in the midst of suffering: namely what I said to begin this article, that happiness is an action verb.
I am a more jaded person as a result of what I have experienced. A friend of mine once said that he thought I was the most jaded person in my major. This had a huge impact on me, not because I felt he was wrong, but because I didn’t realize other people noticed the toll my life has had on me. But now that I have had some time to ruminate on my freshman and sophomore years, which were neither generally happy nor healthy times, I have realized that part of this jadedness and hardened exterior which I now bear heavily is a choice that I have been making.
When I wake up in the morning, the immediate stress of friends and family and loved ones piles on top of anxieties that I have always had. I’ve always been anxious about the future, and I’ve been anxious about finding love and personal joy. I’ve also always had anxieties about community and how I can positively contribute to making this world a loving and peaceful community to live in. But the past four years have magnified all these things. They have negatively affected my desire to be a social individual. They have instilled in me a more pessimistic worldview and a sense of loss, as if I have undergone something irreversible. And largely, this is because I have let them.
When I wake up in the morning, I do not list the things that I have in my head. I list the things that I need to fix or that plague my spirit or that deter me from being happy. The truth is, though, that there are also lots of things in my life that provide joy, happiness, love and hope for my spirit. There is family. There are loving friends. There is my major, which I love deeply. There is nature and Xavier’s beautiful campus and books. There is my mom (I’m a total momma’s boy).
I actively make the choice, however, to put these things farther from the front of my mind than the negative, pressing issues that sometimes drag me down like so many stones in a pond. This, I believe, contributes to a choice that I make to not be happy.
I make this choice because I feel that I do have a lot to be sad about. But the act of ruminating on this sadness, the generative forces of negativity in my life, means that I don’t ruminate on the happiness, the generative forces of positivity.
In short, I choose to spend my time on the bad instead of the good. I have decided that I will reverse this about myself. I will spend time every day remembering the good and choosing happiness. Because if happiness is an action verb, I want so deeply to take action on it.