During a recent lunch hour, I withdrew the last $5 from my checking account. My savings account had only the required minimum balance of $5. I was at work and needed to eat something, lest I starve. And even though I asked for ranch dressing to accompany my chicken finger platter, I was given honey mustard. I didn’t complain and ate it eagerly.
When I got home, all there was left to eat was half a ham slice and enough asparagus for me and Chris, my boyfriend. I wasn’t sure where we’d get money for more food since our rent was due the next day and a check for an assignment from a local magazine that I completed six months ago had yet to arrive. But was I miserable? No.
Let me tell you why: Because my boyfriend was home after 12 hours of work, and I had gotten six more writing assignments in the last week. Life doesn’t get much better for me. And I write that with a smile.
Lately, I’ve read a lot about how college students and recent graduates are depressed in these days of economic turmoil and social unrest. Economics experts collect and analyze data about millennials. Baby boomers call my peers lazy. A lot of writers offer their advice to twentysomethings, and most of these would-be advisers are much older than those they’re trying so hard to guide. Then there’s Lena Dunham, creator of HBO’s Girls, who is labeled the voice of my generation and who, with her depiction of unsatisfactory or nonexistent careers and sex lives, makes young adulthood look pretty bleak.
By all media accounts, being young today is hard and depressing. There’s no way I can be happy, they say. And there’s no way I’m smart enough to figure out how to live my life to the fullest amid all this drudgery, right?
Don’t tell me how hard these times are, I say, or how you pity me because you had it so much easier when you were my age. I don’t want to hear it.
Some time ago, my sister commented that my Facebook statuses were all angry missives and anecdotes detailing situations that annoyed me. Knowing her, she probably said, “You need to lighten up.” Then, as now, some very angry, bitter adults inhabited my world. It wasn’t until that conversation with my younger sister that I realized I was well on my way to becoming one of those people who darken others’ days. And that’s when I made the decision to be happier—not just write lighter Facebook statuses.
So how did I find joy? Through a method somewhat akin to the scientific process, I’ve found the recipe for (my) happiness.
My path to contentedness began with an evaluation of the moments or activities that gave me joy. The anticipation of holidays with my family has always filled me with excitement. Tiny moments spent cuddling with Chris or saying “I love you” for the eighth time in a day took away all of my pain or anger. The journalism classes I was enrolled in at Temple and the writing I did for my various internships gave me a rush.
The way I see it, there are two steps to blissfulness:
1. Do what you love and ignore the naysayers.
2. Spend as much time as possible with the people you love.
Now, I take every chance I can to maximize my happiness. This means figuring out how to keep writing while spending less time with people who drive me crazy in favor of spending it with those I love.
I dare you to take a look at my account balance and tell me there’s no way I’m happy. Or call me lazy. Or assume that my life is filled with unpaid internships and crappy sex. The thing is, I know the secrets to my happiness. Do you?
Rosella Eleanor LaFevre is a journalism student at Temple University and editor-in-chief of M.L.T.S. Magazine. She lives in Northeast Philly with her boyfriend.