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The happiness dilemma

| Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The seagulls in “Finding Nemo” cry, “Mine. Mine. Mine.” They say this every time I watch the movie. It is a curious phenomenon.

Gollum from Lord of the Rings has been known to call some ring “my precious.” Now, I have only seen the first 10 minutes of LOTR, so my character analysis of Gollum may be faulty. I will say it anyways, because I am not graded on this column. (With good reason. Full sentences. Are a struggle.)

I think Gollum was corrupted because he wants to keep the power of the ring to himself. He would be happier and less hunched-over if he did not spend his whole life obsessing about keeping the ring safe. He might venture out of the cave and see some sunlight. He could certainly use the color, or at least a color other than green.

I don’t like to think that I am like the seagulls from “Finding Nemo” unless it means I can fly. I don’t like to think I’m like creepy Tolkien characters unless it means I can speak Elvish. There are times when I am like both of them, though, and I can neither fly nor speak Elvish.

I am often tempted to live for myself. Correction: I am always tempted to ‘live for myself.’ Sometimes (many times) I give in to that temptation.

Surprising fact: when I ‘live for myself,’ when I spend all my time worrying about how to make Erin happy, I am not happy at all. I wonder why this happens. Oh, I know why: I cannot be happy when I am worrying about me.

When I stop worrying about how to make myself happy, when I decide to be content with whatever comes my way, I am happier. When I focus on serving the needs of the external world rather than obsessing over my perceived internal needs, I realize how little I need what I thought I needed.

Instead of thinking about what I want, I realize how much I have. I am breathing. Check. I am not starving. Check. I am wearing clothes. Check. These clothes are not tattered and torn. Check plus. If they are, it is because I am trying to look cool by wearing tattered denim. Check minus.

People nowadays are accused of making themselves into God and worshiping themselves. Modern society is a bit of an anomaly in the fact that most people do not adhere to a religion. Some sociologists claim that people worship themselves instead. They obsess over how to make their lives the best possible lives instead of wondering if God made the best of all possible worlds. They work themselves up over whether it would be better for them to go to medical school or law school (answer: probably neither). They ask themselves, and sometimes Google, if they should marry when they graduate college or wait until they are older and wiser.

But when they are older, they are not actually wiser. Instead of spending their time reflecting on what it means to truly live and pursuing meaningful lives, they worried about how to get ahead and how to create for themselves the best possible life. But this did not help them be happy.

You might be a naturally good and selfless person. You may not be like those seagulls and Gollum at all.

Or you might struggle like I do. In that case, I’ll share my mantra with you: the first step towards personal happiness is caring first about other people’s happiness more than your own.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Erin Thomassen

I am a freshman double majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and French. PLS (aka the Notre Dame Book Club) is the history of ideas through literature, philosophy, math and science. It was the perfect major for me, because I couldn't possibly choose one subject and hurt the other subjects' feelings. French was also a natural pick, since I have been prancing around my house under the pretense of performing ballet for eighteen years. If someone asks me what I do in my free time, I will tell them that I run and read. What I actually do is eat cartons of strawberries and knit lumpy scarves. If you give me fresh fruit, we will be friends. If we become friends, I will knit you a scarf for Christmas. It may be lumpy, but it will be in your favorite color. And if enough people become my friend, lumpy scarves might just become a trend.

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