Today in class, Professor Franzese mentioned an opportunity to write ourselves a letter for 7 years from now, with insights that we have learned from this class. I am choosing to do so for my blog post.
You are writing this letter to yourself on 1/25/21 during your “Science of Happiness” Core Capstone class during J-term. You are in the middle of the COVID pandemic, though you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, as vaccines are now being released (Grammy and Granddad just made appointments today! And Lindsay gets her second dose on Thursday!). I have learned lots of insights from this class that I have tried to apply to my life, and ideally, 7 years later, I truly will have reaped these lessons. Hopefully, by now, you are in a job that you love, have a significant other that makes you happy, and find the thought of the pandemic as a silly and distant memory.
The first insight has to do with money. Dr. Franzese posed the question to us today: what salary amount could you think of that would make you happy/would suffice for the rest of your life? Then, she said imagine if you could sign at contract, right now, saying that any money you make over that amount would be donated to charity. Unfortunately, most people don’t think that way. Once they make that amount, they will always strive for more to spend on themselves. This experience really made me think. The readings all point to the same idea: money does not buy you happiness. Of course, there are a few exceptions. Money cannot buy more happiness once you have enough money to meet certain needs. And, money still does lead to things that can cause happiness, such as a sense of control over life/health, or a sense of respect from others. Lastly, spending money on other people can contribute to happiness. So, I advise you to take a lesson from these ideas. Don’t get greedy. Appreciate what you have. While aspirations can be a positive thing, we should never aspire for more than we can attain in a monetary sense. If you are at a stage in your life right now where money is tight, remember that anything you want to purchase right now is likely just filling a void that will be replaced with something else. If you are at a place where money is not tight, celebrate your successes. However, don’t use money as an excuse to let work run your life or stop you from doing other things that make you happy. And make sure to set aside money to spend on others, whether that be gifts, charity, or random acts of kindness. Be grateful for what you have. Remember the quote: “I was unhappy that I didn’t have shoes until I saw someone else that didn’t have feet.” Also, take a moment to appreciate that you (hopefully) got through the pandemic safe and sound. Yes, you didn’t get to go abroad, but other people didn’t get to survive or have formal funerals for loved ones. Hopefully, at this point in your life, you were able to take some time to travel (and are fluent in Spanish??).
Another insight: happiness is a process, not a place. The path is the goal. You are a very hard-working, goal-oriented person. However, do not let that ambition be your only driving force. Yes, if you are anything like you are now (which I’m sure you are), you of course like to save the best for last. But, don’t only focus on what’s last. Take some time to “sniff and smell the roses.” Especially regarding exercise — don’t just focus on the calories or passing the time — focus on how you feel and what is fun for you. Take lessons from Dad. For instance, it is okay to stop and enjoy nature on a hike, rather than think about what time you’ll be back and what you will be doing next. You definitely like to be 5 steps ahead, but don’t let that strip you from enjoying the moment.
Also, make sure to find humor in life’s adversities. The happiest kinds of people do. Remember that story from your cruise. You were too busy throwing up in misery to take a minute and laugh, and now, you are grateful that somebody else did. Someone said in class the other day: “If know that you will be laughing about something in the future, then you may as well laugh about it now.”
Similarly, spend time with the people that make you happy. Social connections are very important. I hope that right now, you are still good friends with Anna Von Pechmann, Katie Anderson, Maggie Burkley, and your littles, Julia and Lindsay. Those are 5people in your life right now that make you happy, support you, and are a valuable use of your time. Also, appreciate your family. The pandemic drove you fucking crazy with them, but now that you’ve gotten some space, you have a different appreciation.
Also, remember that age and life circumstances do not necessarily play a role in our actual levels of happiness. It is mostly a genetic factor, and we adapt to events more easily than we think. Hopefully, you are going through a happy, growing time in your life right now. But if not, remember that one life event should not/will not affect your happiness. Make an effort now to see life differently, and keep that idea in your head.
You still have a little over a week left in this course, so hopefully you learn more and can add to this letter. Please keep this course at the back of your mind, or front of your mind, and make me glad that I made the last minute decision to switch J-Term classes.