The Secret of Happiness at College Is...

photo by Meghan Moore

photo by Meghan Moore

  • Arianna Engnell

 The secret of happiness is knowing that happiness is always and only temporary. After all, a well written character is never happy the entire show. Characters who appear to be happy either have joyfulness (sometimes through ignorance) or hide away when they are no longer happy. Additionally, we only see about two hours of glimpses into their lives.

If you are tempted to hide away because you feel the need to be happy all the time, please do not for your sake. It is a day to day journey where one day can be the best day ever, the next may leave you with scars, others may even do both. The expectation to always be happy and cheerful created by yourself and/or by others is unfair and unrealistic. More than likely, others do not expect as much happiness from you as you yourself do, and if they do, they do not have your best interests at heart.

What is the difference between joyfulness and happiness? Joyfulness goes beyond circumstantial situations, meaning it takes much more work than happiness. The reason being: happiness is an emotional reaction whereas joyfulness is a choice. A daily choice at best. A good way to start making that choice is by making sure your “happiness” does not depend on a grade, or being cast in a show. Trust me, I know how hard that can be, but the professional world will suck the joy out of theatre and life if you depend upon being cast. Do not emulate the characters in A Chorus Line. You will be less of a bundle of nerves if you do not “need [that] job.” You cannot even place your happiness in a relationship because (1) that kind of pressure is far from fair for your significant other, friend, parent, or whomever it might be (2) they are human so they are going to make mistakes. Joyfulness is not easy. It does come more easily to some but everyone has their own struggles. I struggle with joy more than I did when I was younger. I also tried to hide away when I knew my happiness tank was not high enough to share with other people. I have been learning to let go of the unrealistic expectations that I held for myself, as well as  how to maintain true joyfulness by looking beyond what is temporary. Sometimes, I found more joy in a day simply because I admired the beauty of a tree (possibly odd, but it was effective nonetheless). There were people in my life who commented on my loss of joy when I allowed my walls to fall down and my unrealistic expectations to start withering away. I had to go through that “loss of joy” in order to more clearly take the steps necessary for me to be truthfully joyful.

Another step to embracing joyfulness is being content. The two steps are essentially connected. It helps to separate them so that every day can be a chance to be content and that nothing can make you feel like your happiness is being taken away. I believe that separating them can help you recognize how you are not allowing yourself to be content and how you are placing your happiness in things that could be taken away from you. Recently, there was a day that I was able to just be and not even worry about procrastinating anything. Pretty much instantaneously, I was longing for something to do and wishing and dreaming about my future. I stopped myself and remembered all those days that I wished and dreamed about a day like this one. I smiled and then started thinking about doing some of those things that I longed to do on a day like this. It was a beautiful day that could have been depressing or filled with worry that belongs to future me. It was another day of triumph through years of struggle. Do not let your beautiful days be clouded with thoughts that will only drag you down. Stop those thoughts about yourself as you would stop a friend in their tracks if they said something self-deprecating. It is a daily, often hourly, battle but one that must be fought. You are more than worth the battle. The more you fight the battle, the easier it gets and the more it will feel like a jog through the park rather than a marathon.

We will all have different journeys to truthful joyfulness. Be easy on yourself, because you cannot expect others to know where you are on your journey. This does not give you the ability to freely make mistakes, but remember that you are working at chipping away at years worth of unrealistic expectations, mistakes will happen. You are human. Of course, you must take responsibility for your actions, but it will kill your joy to simmer on your mistakes. To bring this to a close, I will leave you with something corny as well as a very obscure musical theatre reference: learn how to fly on the wings of joyfulness by allowing yourself to first be free from materialistic happiness.

(Musical recommendation: Daddy Long Legs)