12/27/2011 05:01 pm ET | Updated Feb 26, 2012

The Hunt for Happiness

Why should we live in such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. - Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The other day, I was texting a good friend about school, college, and what our future plans are. He said he wasn't sure what he wanted to be. Naturally, I reassured him that he didn't have to worry about that now, but I told him, "If you're going to do something, do what makes you happy." Then he asked something I thought was peculiar: "Well, how would you define 'happy'?"

For some reason, I was really taken aback by this question. I then began thinking about who I, as a teenager, consider to be a person that's "happy"? My first thoughts about my own happiness were immature: happiness is having a boyfriend, being pretty, having friends, etc. I stopped myself, though, and started to think like an adult (I'm 16; I'm going to have to start eventually!). I pictured what I'd want my life to look like in 20 years. I saw myself doing lab work at a university. I saw myself sitting on the couch with my husband and children watching a movie. I saw myself being able to have lunch with my mom and dad once in a while. Very simple.

After considering this, my answer to him was, "Happiness is being comfortable in your own skin, being surrounded with people you truly care about, and having a good amount of wisdom."

"Those things take time, though, Charissa," was his reply.

"What do you expect?" I asked. "Why, do you have something better?"

"Make a good amount of money in the least amount of time possible!" was his answer.

And you know what? I don't blame him for saying that.

Look at us today. Do you think commitment and perseverance are traits exemplified by the people we look up to? By some, yes. By many more, no. Today, the value placed on hard work and dedication to achieving a goal has really diminished. Often, for girls my age, myself included, having the potential to solve the world's problems by committing to doing something we love is often trumped by the lure of becoming one of the "basketball wives," who, with no effort at all, seem to have all the money they could ever need. And with ever-evolving technology at our fingertips, our generation is expected to do even less. Who needs to even surf the web for an answer anymore? Siri has your back. Why ever sit down to talk to a teacher or parent for advice -- or even sit down to watch a TV show -- when you can just get it on the go on your iPad from a million blogs like this? And who reads anymore? You can just watch the movie or listen to the audiobook on your iPod. Frankly, why wouldn't you -- or I -- want to just become a "basketball wife" or win a game show or do other crazy things for some quick cash or notoriety?

Ironically, having cited many examples of his work as a part of the "problem," Steve Jobs is an amazing example of someone who was not much older than I am now when he struggled with where he was going in life... but committed to going somewhere. Though he dropped out of Reed College, he still decided to take a calligraphy class there that interested him -- a calligraphy class that 10 years later inspired him to create the first computer with "beautiful typography" when he developed the first Mac. Even without the formal education, Jobs used every lesson, little or big, to pursue his passion. He had the drive and the courage to hunt a dream, take it by the throat, and run with it.

In ending his speech to Stanford graduates in 2005, Jobs advises them to "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." Ever since I read Jobs' speech, it has stuck with me. It's made me look around at what seems like a world full of people just settling and want to push for more. It's reaffirmed to me that, in a generation full of entitlement and a desire to get everything "now," hard work and dedication to something you love -- anything you love -- really seems so much more fulfilling.

So as I sat texting my friend, I committed at that moment to stay hungry and do what I love with my life... even if it takes a little longer, I have to work a little harder, or I have to suffer a few disappointments. And with that, I think I'll have a helluva good one.