With two years down at Amherst and two to go, I have both a lot of time left and also not really enough. No matter how arduous the spring semester ends up being, after a restful summer I always find myself anticipating coming back to Amherst. I’m eager start fresh, trying to apply the lessons I learned over the course of the past year. I look forward to coming back and hope that this eagerness to thrive in the coming semester is something that I can sustain. But then the days get shorter and colder, the unexpected arises and threatens — or succeeds — to pull the semester away, and, inevitably, stress settles in and makes itself comfortable. At some point I lose that enthusiasm I brought with me back to school, and instead begin to see the remaining weeks or months as a test of endurance. The moments when the pressures of the school year become overwhelming are the same moments when I struggle to find joy.
The lesson that I’m bringing with me into my junior year is to pursue what brings me joy. This advice can seem pretty intuitive, but is really quite hard to follow through with in practice. Therefore, it is worthwhile to set an explicit goal: take the time to do what makes you happy. Feeling joy deeply is a choice — a choice we cannot always make, but certainly one we have to make for ourselves.
One vital component of living a full life is understanding the value of the time you spend letting yourself feel good, and one important piece of finding that joy is honesty. It can be difficult to admit to yourself if something doesn’t make you happy if you feel that it’s supposed to. Over the course of my first two years at Amherst, I’ve been figuring out what makes me happy while at school. Now, I’m still learning about what brings me joy, what helps me through difficult times and what helps me grow. It takes time and patience to find these things, as well as honesty and an understanding that it is worth it to spend time being happy.
Certainly, everyone finds joy in different things: I personally feel good when learning an instrument, skiing with my dad, sharing music with others, and playing board games or video games with my friends. Some may find joy in mastering — or simply dabbling in — a new art form or sport, or perhaps through reading or taking time to learn about things that interest them. Joy can be found in a myriad of emotional experiences. Others may find joy in the connections they make with other people or in receiving friendly reassurances when they are feeling low.
Too often, we neglect to consciously choose to find joy. Sadness, disappointment, anger, fear, and anxiousness are each necessary — and painful — parts of living, but they have the adverse ability to overcome other emotions, whether due to mental illness, difficult circumstances or overwhelming challenges. Therefore, joy must be sought out with intention.
Pursue the things that make you happy and they can become essential counterpoints to adversity, creating a balance that helps sustain you through tough times. To quote “The Adventure Zone,” a podcast that has brought me a lot of joy, to live life to its fullest is to both rise to face the challenges that get thrown our way and also to chase after what brings us joy, “Because, at the end of the day, that’s all you got: looking back at the joy you had, and the joy you found and the joy you gave other people.” You deserve joy, and you deserve to value your happiness. Don’t overlook that.