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1/22/14

Millennials...Finding Happiness




“We must take a step past our setbacks, as they are only temporary.” -tcw

Our parent’s generation (Baby Boomers) did their best, so I suppose we can thank them for at least attempting closer relationships, more acceptance and standing up for children more so than previous generations. 

We millennials are considered pretty spoiled just for living in America. As those who have travelled to the developing world have told me, “even the poorest American is infinitely better off than most people in entire countries all over the world.” 

Not all, but many of us millennials have known constant electricity our entire lives, which is more than BILLIONS of other people on this planet can say. So what makes us so lucky? 

"The distinction between us and people living in Kalighat (or any developing country) is not that we are smarter, not that we're harder working, not that we're more virtuous; it's that we're luckier. And it does seem to me that when we have won the lottery of life, that frankly there's some obligation that comes with it, some moral obligation that one has to discharge as well."  

Nicholas Kristof (Half the Sky) 


It’s not right that babies die from malnutrition, cold, hunger, disease—but it happens. It happens in 2014 and it will continue to happen until drastic changes are made. Those drastic changes may take a while, so what we do in the meantime is try to better ourselves and be a decent, kind, action-oriented human being; it shouldn’t matter if we are poor or rich as to whether or not we should want to help others. 

I know how hard and stressful and draining times of money worries can be. I’ve lived through a childhood of going to bed with an aching, hungry feeling in my tummy because it was a few more days till payday for my parents. That’s just the way it was, and I remember. I don’t ever want that aching feeling in my children’s tummy, but I can’t predict the future. I can only live right now in this moment and be thankful I have enough food to live and not starve. I can be thankful to have electricity and running water, not because I’ve been conditioned to “feel grateful” for these things, but because I’ve been to an economically-challenged country where those things were considered luxuries, not entitlements. 

Some of us have never seen true poverty or conditions other than a homeless person walking down the street or something from a movie or documentary. And when you get right down to it, electricity actually is a luxury, though most of us will never see it that way. Electricity is something that makes a huge difference in life, as well as freedom and independence. It’s all really quite recent if you think back a hundred years.

Most of us millennials never faced the hardships previous generations experienced—world war, famine, the depression, per say. As most of us millennials were always with food, shelter and clothing all of our lives, it’s difficult to gain true gratitude and appreciation for the things we take for granted, never having been without. Most of us have never lived even a day without a running refrigerator.

“If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, you are richer than seventy five percent of the people in the world.” (Burton, 2007)

That’s why we should look to God to direct our path in life, to the best use of our own talents and abilities in whatever situation/neighborhood/family/circumstance we were born into. Finding out there is a true hell in the afterlife means we have to CHOOSE now to repent, to love for Jesus as He died on the cross for our sins....We must choose Him over any worldly hurt, posessions, feelings, etc. We must. 


The problem?

I was starting to believe my mom's advice, “It could be worse, there are people who are far worse off than you,” was never going to make me feel better. I was tired of self-help books saying basically the same thing, and encouraging me to get to a place where every day and all day—I felt happy

I turned 30 and finally realized this was just not going to happen, at least not for me. Every week of my life, I’m going to have good days and sometimes bad. I can accept this and find tools to fight those days of feeling stressed and overwhelmed. One huge tool is gratitude. 

Imagine growing up eating mainly rice, beans, sometimes fish, sometimes chicken, and usually a green leafy vegetable every single night for dinner, which would even be considered lucky. But for Americans, or at least most of us millennials, it’s about as distant a thought as living on Mars, and might even seem borderline “torture.” I can’t think of many youth today who would be okay with having the same dinner every night. 

The problem is, most of us millennials have never seen true poverty. So unfortunately, we grow up and become adults with very little empathy for others, especially those outside our own country. We aren’t aware when we live in a “each man for himself” kind of mentality. 

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I was married later in life than most of my friends and had my first baby two years later. This is not the most typical plan for young women my age, and it seemed like I was “behind” when all of my friends were getting married and having kids in their early 20’s. 

Now I'm 30, and I know there was no rush because life just flies by too dang fast. I have a purpose. I have a family, my own little family, and I will shape and mold future generations to come. My husband and I work really hard on keeping the priorities in our life straight—Christian values, putting each other first, giving back to the world, being the kind of people that our children and grandchildren will (hopefully) always love and look up to. While we believe in fun and freedom, we also believe in guidance and discipline. We want our daughter and future children to know they are loved by us no matter what, yet we owe it to them to have the guidance and real talks necessary when facing this world. 

While the goal for many people is to find that “perfect life,” I have come to realize that everything has its flaws; that’s what makes life exciting, unique and perfect just for us. Nothing and no one is perfect

I realized at the initial creation of this project that I was not alone in my struggles, many other millennials I spoke with seemed to be struggling with acceptance and finding happiness. Why were so many turning to alcohol or drugs? Why the self-medicating and taking an inactive role in life? 

Some had gone through painful, drawn-out divorces and now had a new set of issues to overcome. Some started business ventures, only to lose thousands in savings when the venture fizzled. Some tried again and again to finish school, but could never quite seem to carry it through to the end.  Some had traumatic experiences that were never dealt with properly. Some were searching for love which didn’t seem to be possible. Whatever the situation, there seemed to be a common factor for those I spoke with: Seeking Happiness. 

What does a person need to be happy?

Last year I came across the following article by blogger Joe Martino, author of www.collective-evolution.com, a fantastic and rather uplifting website: 

A palliative nurse recorded the most common regrets of the dying and put her findings into a book called The Top Five Regrets of The Dying (by Bronnie Ware.) It’s not surprising to see what made the list, as they are all things that touch each of our lives as we struggle to pay attention to and make time for things that we truly love. Below is the list of each regret along with an excerpt from the book.”  

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
 “This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

We can still learn from our elders, and who better to listen to than those nearly ready to leave this place... 

You’ll note there isn’t a regret wishing “to have made a lot more money.”

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