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Garrett Degraffenreid Headshot

I Want to Grow Up to Be Happy

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When I was 5 years-old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy.' They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life.

― John Lennon

In today's society we're pushed to be successful, to be better than the person standing next to us. We're taught in school almost completely for the purpose of standardized testing to see what we can retain in a short period of time, only to lose it in the process of making more room to retain more knowledge.

We're forced into planning our entire life freshman year of high school. Where we'll go to college, what we'll major in and what we'll do afterwards are questions that batter us from school administrators and family members. I personally don't know what I'm doing this weekend, much less four, eight and 10 years from now. My career choice changes from month to month. I want to be a politician, a teacher, maybe a musician and some months when I feel like I'm going nowhere I settle for the neighborhood bum. I have no clue what I want to do with my life, and I know I'm not the only one who feels like this.

The problem is we teach kids to be someone, when we should be teaching them to be something. Instead of teaching that we should strive for success, usually identified as wealth and power, and settle for nothing less, we should teach our youth to be happy. Teach them to do something that they love to do. Something they'll be happy doing day after day after day.

In the eighth grade I had a teacher who changed my life by teaching me useful things. In addition to the classroom lessons he was required to teach by the state of Texas, he'd teach us life lessons. He taught us tips on job interviews, how to get out of our comfort zones and how to know when a date isn't going well. On one particular day he said he wanted to talk about our futures. He told us that when we were older, we should do what we loved, and that it was a waste of our time to do something that we weren't passionate about and that wasn't fulfilling to us.

After thinking about this I walked out of his classroom with a different perspective on my future. I realized it's not the physical appearance of my future, but the emotional appearance that should matter most. The way I feel about what I'm doing should be the driving force of my work. We have the freedom to choose what we do with our life. We should do what we love, love what we do, and strive for personal happiness and success according to our own definition.