Self Discovery

Saying Yes to Yourself: Follow Your Own Path to Happiness and Fun

Take “do what makes you happy” to the next level

When I was in high school, I hated going to dances. This was for a myriad of reasons, including but not limited to the following: I’m a terrible dancer, I never cared for the music, and I always felt completely out of place. As of right now, I can’t look back on a single one and tell myself, “Hey, that was an objectively fun time.”

So if you asked me why I attended over ten dances throughout my high school career, I really couldn’t give you a straight answer until recently: it was my friends’ idea of fun. I had never taken the time to consider, let alone prioritize my personal enjoyment over what society’s idea of a good time was.

By the time I finally came to this realization, I was almost done with senior year, and there was only one dance left: prom. I had gone the year before as a junior and, shocker here, but I didn’t really have a good time.

You might be able to guess where this is going: I chose not to go to senior prom. This, of course, is teenage societal blasphemy, worthy of an angry mob featuring every high school stereotype perpetuated in movies and other various pop culture at the foot of my doorstep, complete with whatever their equivalent of torches and pitchforks might be.

Do I regret it? No. Not in the slightest. I knew I wouldn’t have had fun.

What did I do instead? Honestly, I have no idea. Probably not much, since most if not all of my friends were at prom. But I did save a lot of money that I would have spent on a ticket, tux rental, and probably my fraction of a party bus with a dancing pole, which tended to be a prom must-have.

Through that choice, I learned that it’s okay to skip out on some things despite how excited your friends might be for it (yes, even if it’s senior prom), because you’re not really missing out if you know you won’t be happy.

It also caused me to start thinking of what ingredients are included in my ideal version of a good time: thought-provoking conversation, a hint of rebellion, timeless memories, and perhaps a bit of learning.

I began to drift toward friends who I believed were most likely to share these ingredients with me. People who, like me, may not have shared an interest in things like dances, football games and parties without bounce houses, but perhaps more in nature, board and card games, and parties with bounce houses.

That’s not to say one is better than the other. It’s a matter of personal preference. If you’re not a big fan of bounce houses, I guess I can try to understand that.

In any case, this turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life, and I’m very grateful for the existence of these people today. Through countless wonderful endeavors with them, I have escaped my comfort zone and broken my own monotony several times over.

So, I encourage you to do the same: spend ten uninterrupted minutes and either write down or think of the things that bring you happiness. The most happiness. Experiences, people, things, places. If you’re having trouble, ask yourself this:

If you could be doing anything, anywhere, with anyone that the world has to offer, what would it all be?

For me, the first thing that comes to mind is swimming in Hawaii with my closest friends, but I am unfortunately not made of money (and neither are my closest friends). So, maybe swimming in a pool at someone’s house, or going to a waterpark, or chipping in for an inflatable waterslide would all be good alternatives.

Once you have your ideas, make a list and work down it. You’ll be very happy you did. And if plans fall through, you’re just back to where you were before. There’s no downside here.

•••

As summer quickly approaches and the school year comes to a close, you’ll (hopefully) have a bit more free time in order to do some of these things. So, put your happiness in your own hands.

Also, don’t do something just because your friends want to; do something because you think you’ll have fun. It’s okay to be a little selfish in this regard.

And maybe rent a bounce house. They’re probably cheaper than you think.

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Hudson Keown is a Junior at Arizona State University. His spare time...