Finding success and happiness is unhelpful advice

Searching for success is like looking hungrily at a fully stocked kitchen, but not knowing what to eat. One could find a beautifully intricate recipe and spend time designing each plate with the right amount of sauces or one could just eat a bowl of Cocoa Puffs. Both options will give varying amounts of happiness, but clearly only one of those choices will instill a feeling of accomplishment.

As a junior finally starting at UW following the classic BC transfer route, I came to a sudden halt Saturday morning, questioning my decisions in life, my future path and my sanity. I want to attend medical school, become a doctor, help people and do all the doctor-y stuff that I can do. The idea made me happy and my steps toward that goal – volunteering and shadowing – also made me happy.

The same Saturday when I found myself in a depressive hole, I also read an article about being successful, probably the cause of my glum state. In it, the author writes that everyone in the rat race has the wrong idea. Success shouldn’t be about deciding between Cocoa Puffs or Gordon Ramsay’s beef wellington. If one of them makes you happier, then go all in for it.

Sadly, I don’t think it’s that simple. Whatever inspires happiness is not a constant value. In my experience, a person can find joy in almost anything and it’s often not a permanent deal. Let’s look at a basic example. Kids love toys and and they have an endless choice of toys at the toy store. They can first find happiness in one doll, but later realize that their happiness is actually coming from another doll that can talk with the press of a button.

Similarly, finding happiness is just as unpredictable. One moment, I could be fully interested in becoming a software engineer but in a few months, I can find more happiness in medicine. Who knows when I will find something new? It’s frustrating to think like this, but it’s also an inevitable situation.

In addition, searching for whatever makes you happy is time consuming and something that can only be done with a safety net of resources supporting your exploration. Whoever writes these articles about chasing passion instead of wealth is clearly privileged enough to do so.

College students can surely take the advice, but it’s something they have to pursue with a concrete plan and the willingness to make mistakes. As a non-resident college junior, I’m already finding myself in financial bind. With an excruciating amount of loans being taken out to pay for my Husky education, I’m unable to fully appreciate and enjoy my education. Additionally, I have responsibilities outside of academia.

At this point in my life, is it a reasonable decision to drop my classes and go on a search to find some good ol’ fashioned happiness? I don’t think so.

Unfortunately, I’m not the only person in this kind of situation. College students across the globe can understand my dilemma. However, it’s partially not our faults. Just look at how career counseling websites are designed. There is an innumerable amount of lists about which job makes the most salary or which major has the highest rate of employment. Yet, there’s scrap about which job has the happiest employees.

Maybe making a list with quantifiable variables is easier. Maybe making a list of the happiest careers is too subjective and it might step on a few sensitive toes. Maybe, these lists are just showing an undeniable correlation between salary and happiness. If so, then why not chase after wealth?

At this point in my life, I’ve decided on one thing. I’m just going to try my best in whatever I’m pursuing. Sure, it’s just putting me back into the endless rat race, but it’s the only thing that might actually work. Why shouldn’t working hard and overcoming obstacles make anyone happy? It may not be the most joyful work, but the fact that one has done their very best to persevere and finish is success.

Who knows? Maybe a comfortable six-figure salary might actually make me the happiest man on Earth.