Choosing Your Own Happiness

This summer has been a pretty significant wake up call for me. I'm nearing graduation and realizing that I have no idea what I want to do next. I used to have everything planned out - go to college, be a teacher, live in North Carolina.

Now, I am 6 months away from completing my degree in Middle Grades Education, and I don't really know if that's the route I want to take. If you don't know this, teachers in North Carolina get treated pretty terrible. Within the last week I've seen numerous posts about budget cuts and job loss - none of those things I want to experience. Maybe it's a combination of how I've been treated by previous teachers, students, and even professors at Western, but I just want to make a change. 

Don't get me wrong, I love teaching. I get excited about the first day of classes, and getting to know my students, but I think I had a warped idea of what teaching was all about. I was expecting to change the world, and inspire the young minds that filled the desks in my poorly lit classroom. That is certainly not the case. I feel like I do more inspiring through writing than I do in the classroom. 

About two weeks ago, I was approached with a completely different career opportunity in Pennsylvania. I was picked by the HR team at this company to join their Sales team - a field that I would certainly shine in. Within 10 days I had went on three interviews, been taken out to lunch, and been offered the job with full benefits. It was a new and exciting experience that I had never thought was possible for me. I woke up thinking about it, and went to sleep excited about it. Jess said I seemed happier than ever. 

But, within those 10 days, I was bombarded with opinions from other people. I got phone calls from relatives that I hadn't even told about the opportunity, and their opinions on the matter clashed with mine. I had people dangling privileges in my face, and asking me to not take the opportunity "for them". People were throwing statistics at me and just generally bugging the crap out of me. It was very difficult for me to articulate what I really wanted from them - which was support. I was being approached with a life changing opportunity, and no one was actually letting me make a decision, that were just screaming about staying in college because it's the "right thing to do". 

PSA: College is not for everyone. 

To make a long story short, I didn't take the job opportunity. I sent an email declining the offer and immediately burst into tears. My decision was made off of what other people wanted, and that made me upset. People are so quick to voice their thoughts and make decisions for them, that they forget who's life it actually is. 

Making decisions for yourself is so important. As a 22 year old, my life is just beginning, and the big decisions are approaching. Letting family, friends, or significant others make the decisions for you only benefits them. You have to take control of your life choices, because you're the one that has to live with them (and whatever consequences might come). Remember these things when you're feeling suffocated by the opinions of others; 

  • You do not have to do anything you don't want to do. 
  • You do not have to stay on a path because it is the norm for people your age.
  • "Do this for my sake" is not a valid reason. 
  • You are not bound to what others want for you. 

Shifting gears a bit, I've never thought of my career path as a money making opportunity. I wouldn't have invested my entire life into teaching if that were the case. Happiness within my field will always come before the amount of money I make, and I think if everyone thought like that, the world would be a happier place. Yes, we need money to survive out here in the very materialistic world, but the amount of happiness I felt getting that job offer outranked the entry level pay I would be receiving. I was ecstatic that the opportunity was in Pennsylvania, a place that I've always wanted to live permanently. I was equally excited about the fact that I would be close to my dad. His house is my oasis and I look forward to visiting time and time again. This opportunity offered a change to settle down in my own dream home.

Throughout my college years I have dabbled in the subject of happiness - I've listened to podcasts and read books about it, trying to optimize my own happiness to the best of my ability. One of the most valuable things I have taken from The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Reuben, was that personal growth leads to happiness. I want to be on a path that I can excel, grow, and succeed in. Why are we so fixated on the fact that we have one path to lead? Passions change, visions for the future change, and peoples wants change. There isn't a damn thing wrong with that.

What I've taken from this experience is I am in charge of my own path, personal growth is what I crave, and if I want to change my course I absolutely can. No one else will dictate my happiness from now on.