With so many topics to discuss, unwanted situations to address and issues to debate, I wonder how many people ever think about the things that really matter.Do people really think about how they truly feel towards certain things or take the time out to discover their beliefs and values?
Why is so much attention geared towards G.P.A.s, jobs, degrees, and other superficial assets, yet few college students can tell you their postgraduate plans? Few individuals have any sense of direction for their life or even any plans for what it is they wish to accomplish during their lifetime.
Despite the fact that we can discuss and write about different social issues such as racism, abortion, poverty, and disenfranchisement along with many more, we rarely hear or read about ways of making one?s life happier. Are you truly happy? With the divorce and suicide rates in America continuing to rise, the constant danger of war and terrorism, and the poverty in inner city neighborhoods, the majority of Americans are faced with physical, mental, and emotional setbacks that limit their ability to live happy and fulfilling lives. This should not be the case.
In my junior year here at West Chester University, I began to read books about revolutionary people who made an impact on society, such as Henry David Thoreau, Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton and Albert Einstein, and attend seminars hosted by WCU alumni Omar Barlow. I started to ask myself some very important questions.
At about the same time, however, I was experiencing overbearing family situations, and people whom I thought were my friends were no longer as “friendly” as I had anticipated. I began to feel alone and scared; it was as if nobody cared about me. In fact, I even stopped caring about myself. I didn?t care what happened to me, who I involved myself with, or anything about my future. I was hurting myself.
After several months of frustration and realizing that that way of thinking was getting me nowhere, I began to confront the pain that I was dealing with.
I stopped wishing that someone or something would come rescue me, and started confronting the pain of growing up without my parents and dealt with the fact that I practically raised myself. In addition, I released unnecessary pressures of being afraid to fail and make mistakes, and accepted the fact that I am merely a human being.
Feeling fragile, confused, distraught, and not knowing what or who to believe in, like all human beings, I cried tears of sadness. Suddenly, I wasn?t as tough as I thought I was. It?s easy for me to address these types of feelings now because I know that I am no longer alone.
Many people feel the same way that I did. Furthermore, after several months of admitting and confronting past hurts, guilt, and failures, I birthed a new understanding of many vital life lessons.
It was at this point in my life that I realized that I am more important and valuable than how I was feeling. I began thinking about how my family would feel if I chose to let my life fade away.
How would my younger brother?s and sister?s lives turn out if I was incapable of providing them with the wisdom and advice needed to become successful? I questioned who I was and what I really wanted to do with my life. Who was I? Where was I going? What type of things would make me happy or what type of things do I hate? Suddenly, I was gaining a sense of responsibility for not only myself, but others as well.
No longer was I living for someone else?s opinion or trying to please another, but I was beginning to discover the true “me.” I even wrote down plans and goals that I would like to accomplish. I finally began doing what I wanted to do and the things that would make me happy. The truth of the matter is that I would have never learned any of this in a classroom or on television.
Our society is not designed to teach us how to live happily or discover our purpose in life, but instead we are bombarded with fantasies, cell phones, fast food, and the importance of getting a good job. White picket fences, movie star boob jobs, and a million dollars are our ideas of perfection and happiness. But you don?t want to work behind a desk all day or punch in numbers for some over-zealous boss, do you? What is it that makes you happy and what would you enjoy doing everyday? At the end of the day, when you don?t have to smile for your boss anymore, you are going to have to face yourself, and you can?t deny how you truly feel.
Not everyone is going to encounter the same experiences that I?ve been faced with, but I hope everyone can come to a greater understanding of self.
Appreciating and understanding yourself and the world around you is what it means to be truly educated. People like Thoreau and Einstein were able to make a difference because they understood that the self, education, and happiness were all interrelated. Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see.”
But how can you change anything if you don?t know yourself? All the degrees, G.P.A.s, boob jobs, cell phones and white picket fences will never educate us on being happy.
Before we continue to address war, classism, poverty, and other social ills, let?s obtain a better grasp of who we are and how we can make our own lives more fulfilling and happier. Consequently, we will be able to “become” the changes that we wish to see.
Shane Daniels is a student at West Chester University.