Get a life — but only if it makes you happy

A little while ago, I participated in a discussion on reddit about the topic of “having a life.” But within the few sentences I actually posted on the site, I think there was a lot more I really wanted to say.

I used to think that “having a life” meant being involved in a little bit of everything, a combination of work, school, social engagements, community meetings; all sorts of little things that keep you busy. I’d always compare myself to others, wondering why some people “had a life” and I didn’t, because I was insecure about how little (or even which things) I did.

It’s much more than that, though — at least to me. You can spend 16 hours a day running from place to place, whether it’s because you choose to spend your time this way or because you feel obligated. But if “to have a life” was in the dictionary, I think there would be several definitions.

Every person’s life is different. No matter how many similar activities people do, or how many hours they spend working together, no two people will perceive their life exactly the same way. While some adore the thrill of “the grind,” others live for the scarce leisure in between. Even though two people have the same position at their workplace, they could enjoy it (or not enjoy it) in different manners, depending on the life experiences that led them to this point.

There’s been a single constant throughout my life, though, that I only realized very recently: my happiness.

To me, “having a life” has almost nothing to do with the things I actually spend my time doing. It’s ensuring that at the end of every day, I can be content with the decisions I made. And reaching this point is a lot easier than I thought.

Right now, I spend the bulk of my days working on assignments for school. I also watch a lot of movies, work out, and read. But just because my schoolwork is my top priority doesn’t mean a productive day can’t include ensuring my happiness throughout. If at the end of the day, I can say with absolute certainty that I healthily combined pleasure with necessity, then the day has been a success. As these days add up, my “life” emerges — and I don’t see a way I could look back on my recent days and not say I “had a life.”

None of this excuses the fact that sometimes, I’m not happy. Sometimes I’m bored, sad, angry, anxious, or irritated. It’s not always pretty. As much as it comforts me to maintain some sort of schedule, I know that there are some things that are completely out of my control.

But being happy with your life — or “having a life” — doesn’t mean that these things aren’t allowed to happen. Every emotion you have adds substance to your life, something extra to dwell upon. Our existence would mean nothing without these emotions. They’re healthy, and they’re okay.

My life means the world to me, and it’s taken years for me to get to the point where I can say that and mean it. I can say, “I like where I am right now,” and be able to simultaneously integrate every experience I’ve ever had into this sentence, while acknowledging that it was each singular bout of depression, each fight, each period of seemingly unbearable boredom that got me to the point where I can utter those words.

Don’t be afraid to do things that make you happy, and don’t be discouraged by the things that make you sad. Don’t let single outbursts of anger define you, but don’t ignore them, either. Know that you have the ability to make choices that benefit you. You’re not selfish for wanting to be happy. It’s called “having a life,” and you deserve it.

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