An attempted explanation of a college-student’s perception of happiness.
As the popular childhood riddle concludes, the chicken crossed the road to get to the other side. However, I always question “What motivated him to make the passage?” Was the grass greener over there? Was there a nice block of shade? Was another sexy, half naked chicken waving with a foam finger? I always wonder what incentivized the chicken to deem his current side unsatisfactory, and thus be so confident that the other side bore the fruit of the promise land.
College students, like the chickens, are always looking to find something better on “another side.” Life repeatedly conditions us to believe happiness lies in the future. It teaches us that if we just suffer through the endless nights of studying now we will surely reap the benefits of a high paying job later. The problem with this philosophy is that it promotes a false sense of “lack” in the present and a neediness to obtain in the future.
We put so much emphasis on fantacized destinations, in convincing ourselves of the happiness the future will bear, that we unfortunately forfeit the chance of celebrating the joy in each present moment on”this side.”
If you are like me, you often fall victim to the ever-present thoughts of, “just get this day over with,” or, “I can’t wait until summer,” and, “why don’t these sweatpants have pockets?” I often find myself waking up each morning just going through the motions of the typical college student’s routine of “breakfast-class-lunch-class-sports practice-dinner-homework-bed.” At night, all I can think about is pressing the rest button and trying my luck again the next day. But all I do is wake up the next morning stuck on the same rollercoaster, creeping on the same Facebook pages, and waiting in line for the same salad.
Now I realize I am problematically fueling my own vicious cycle of purposeless living.
As one of my favorite author’s Neale Donald Walsch so eloquently states:
“We have been told that to be happy in life we need to get the guy, get the girl, get the car, get the job, get the house, get the spouse, get the kids, get the better job, get the better house, get the promotion, get the grandkids, get the gray hair, get the office in the corner, get the retirement watch, get the illness, get the burial plot, and get the hell out.”
But why do we accept this hamster-wheel lifestyle as the norm? Why do we allow ourselves to sleepwalk through the most meaningful moments of life with a zombie-like fixed sight on an indeterminist, unpromising fairytale ending?
So the days come and go. Soon enough, the vacation ends, the exam concludes, and the graduation ceremony becomes just a memory. Page-by-page we complete chapters of our lives, but we never escape the vicious cycle of wanting the next best thing that we think will make our lives better. More, better.
Some days I consider running away to India to live an enlightened life with the Hindu monks in hopes of growing closer to God. But, then, I realize the Wifi connection over there is probably unreliable and I hear they eat dogs. Besides, I am looking for something more realistic to practice in my current student lifestyle that would not involve my parents questioning my sanity.
School is tough. How am I supposed to devote time in my day to relaxing and enjoying my life when I can barely find time to use the bathroom between classes? I feel like I am driving on a highway and know I should stop for gas really soon, but maybe, just maybe, I can make it to the next exit before I run out of fuel.
And then it happens: we stop short of the nearest exit and life hits us in the face. Whether it is a death in the family, a dramatic break-up, or just some really bad diarrhea (God forbid all three), sooner or later we are forced to awaken from our overscheduled, self-centered lives and see the bigger, divine picture.
However, we do not need catastrophic events in our lives to awaken us to appreciate the beauty of health and living. We can combat this lifestyle by beginning to enjoy each and every moment life presents, favorable or unfavorable. As popular artist Sheryl Crow sings, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.” The only sure way to stimulate future happiness and eliminate regret is by opening the door to more happiness and joy in the present moment. Maybe you “can’t wait” to study abroad in London next semester, or maybe you are “dying” to hear back about that job interview. But, if we continually fail to find enjoyment in the process of arriving to these destinations, we will spend our whole life waiting around and overlooking the abundance of opportunity in front of us.
Now, I’m not trying to force-feed you some hippie-yoga-vegan-loving lifestyle that promises a lifetime of jollies. If I was, I would probably make the article cover this photo below and title it something like, “~*Life is a Journey, not a Destination*~” while hugging a group of poverty-stricken African children.
Instead, this is my challenge for you: enjoy the process of life as it unfolds in the current state, in the present moment. I challenge you to place excitement in the joy of living, and thus long-term happiness, rather than being solely fixated on an automated, futuristic life of instant gratification.
“Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Matthew 6:34
So, why in fact did the chicken cross the road? Well, on the surface, the legend holds it was to get to the other side. But, if he believed that in crossing the road he would achieve a superseding level of happiness more fulfilling than the side he was on, he is in for a lifetime of disappointment. If you are simply living your life to “get to the other side,” you are overlooking the abundance of love and opportunity present in your current moment of life.
There will always be people who view what others have on the other side with envy, thus wishing tremendously to journey across the road. The saying “you want what you don’t have” holds as strong as ever in this circumstance. Until we, the chickens, can realize that pure happiness can be found on the present side of the road, we will be living in a state of delayed joy—as consequence, our future will never quite satisfy our hunger for better, and more.
So, I dare you to cross the road not simply to get to the other side, but to seek more joy in the experience the journey offers. Only then will we be truly satisfied in our life here on earth.