By Stacey Tuttle
“Do more of what makes you happy.”
This phrase is on a mug that sits in my kitchen cabinet, a mug that my mom had given to me as a gift when I graduated college. It is meant to remind me every morning of what I should be doing now as a full, bona fide adult – doing more of what makes me happy.
Before graduating, we are forced almost daily to think about what we should be doing. We are provided with a schedule, and this schedule is predictable, filled with appointments and tasks. And the consequences for not meeting these appointments and tasks are also predictable. Do your homework, or you’ll get a bad grade. Go to class, or risk not knowing that essay question on the exam. Pursue an extracurricular activity, or maybe you’ll be less competitive for your top choice graduate program. Go to that party, or you’ll miss out on an important social event that your friends will be talking about all week. You better do this, or … You better do that, or … The routine isn’t necessarily fun, but it’s there. It’s a safety net. If you are lost, you can easily find your way back to this trickle of the expected.
Then you graduate college with some degree. What to next? Some will say, more school! Sure, that might be a great plan. Let me specialize further. Some will say, work now! Make some money, save, settle down. Excellent idea. Others say, travel! You’re young, nothing is tying you down. Put money into experiences, not things. And you say, ah, yes! That is the true way to find happiness.
But is it? Is that happiness for you?
So let’s return to the phrase – do more of what makes you happy. And let’s place the emphasis on the you. It took me some time to realize that I often assign other people’s expectations for me to my expectations for myself, rather than creating my own. After college, after this steady trickle of the expected, it became quite easy for me to sway in the direction of the popular wind; to do what society, my family, my friends seem to think I should do next, rather than what feels right for me. It’s easy to recognize when I’m making this mistake, because when I reach the goal, I am not nearly as satisfied as when I choose the goal for myself.
This is a learning curve, and it is often steep, but I am finding my way slowly. It’s not easy to move from the routine of college into this new world of freedom. But we must remind ourselves that we are the captains of our own ships. There is no one right path to paradise, nor is there just one version of paradise. So now that I’m out of college, out of this routine, I feel ready to steer the ship in the direction that makes sense for me. I’m finally understanding that I should do more of what brings me personal fulfillment, and not more of what will look good in my Facebook photos. This means making time for myself – giving myself time to meditate each day, to run around my yard with my dogs, to watch a movie with my husband. The grad thesis can wait, the work emails can wait, the social media notifications can all wait. While I want to pay attention to these things, and I will in due time, I’m establishing a balance for myself. And this balance works.
So, with this new year, I encourage you to add this to your resolutions –
Do more of what makes you happy.