The Question of Happiness

I was inspired to write this week’s piece because of a September Newsweek article titled Why Women Should Stop Trying to Be Perfect” by President of Barnard College Debora Spar. The article talks mostly about things that have been floating around the media recently related to work-life balances for women. It was also inspired by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic that argued why women can’t have it all. Since we are at Colgate, I think it is only fair to discuss this issue from a holistic, multi-gendered perspective. As we sit in our classrooms decid-ing what to do with our lives, the question of “can we have it all?” truly is an important one. I have thought about this question a lot recently since I am in a bit of a tizzy trying to figure out what to do with my upcoming life post graduation (fun-employment anyone?).

In a conversation with someone in Career Services over the summer, I expressed how in many ways I felt like I had to go into a career field where I was the top of the ladder because that is what both my parents have done and that is what (it appears) Colgate molds us for. But what if that isn’t what I want, or what if being at the top of the rung is impossible if other things in my life make me happy? This leads to the question of what “having it all” is then, in the long run. Is it wealth and job security? Is it a loving partner and family? Is it health and fitness? I know those are all things I would like, but I don’t think the balance is so easy, or even truly possible depending on certain choices. So that leads to the question of: must we choose somewhere along the way?

I’m not convinced that Colgate does a great job of addressing these issues. How often are we asked or ask of ourselves, “what makes you truly happy?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear from our faculty about the struggles and incredible experiences they have had that led them to where they are today? If, in fact, the road to academia, medicine or law really isn’t all it is cracked up to be, wouldn’t it be nice if someone honestly told you why this is so you could make important decisions about what would be best for you?

This is the struggle: as college students amid all of these questions, we are too busy worrying about what we perceive to be important now to realize the bigger picture. On a day-to-day basis, I am not concerned about what is making me happy, but more what I will eat for dinner, when I will work on my thesis, when I will get my run in, what readings I need to do for class tomorrow, etc.. When we enter the grind of school, we are distracted from these bigger pictures and questions.

Yet, it is exactly these questions that should be guiding everything we do. I can’t say I have come anywhere near figuring out how to do this right, but I have a feeling I’m not the only one stuck in this warped worldview.

I suppose the take-home message is that I hope we all take some time sooner rather than later, we consider a) what we think makes us happy now and into the future and b) if we truly are carving paths in our lives that lead to happiness. As I try to make decisions about my future, I want to pose those questions for underclassmen to consider.

They are not only relevant to what we do with our futures, but what we value in our day-to-day interactions, the extracurricular choices we make and even the type of friends we cultivate. Let us be more mindful of the pursuit of happiness and what having it all, in that happiness, can actually look like.

Contact Becca Friedland at [email protected].