“Do what makes you happy” is a message that we constantly hear and absorb; through social media, entertainment, news, and relationships, we are encouraged to do whatever it takes to live our best, most joyous, most fulfilling lives. To most, this often translates into personal enjoyment and development: climbing the corporate ladder, taking splendid vacations, going to shows and concerts, finding the best restaurants, meeting all kinds of people, and so on. I have certainly tried to follow this sentiment for most of my life too: my parents have always urged me to chase my passions for art, music, and juggling; I love being able to travel the world with friends and family; I relish great food; and I love relaxing with great television and music and attending Broadway shows. Like most people I know, I strive to have a fulfilling career, spend time with those I care about, and have fun.
But, in my burgeoning adulthood, that sentiment of enjoying life has morphed into a more complicated question, in a couple of ways. The first is how I’ve acquired a greater understanding of myself as an introvert. As a younger kid, the idea of fun precisely equated with going out with friends and doing “cool” or crazy things; and with some friends currently, it sometimes still does. But I have learned in the past few years, in clearer terms, about my heavy inclination towards introversion, which suggests that, while I do thoroughly appreciate being with loved ones and exploring the world’s activities, I am most psychologically at ease when in solitude and I enjoy being lost in my internal thoughts and inklings. Accordingly, I tend to be apprehensive in unfamiliar social situations and stay in my comfort zones, which are issues I am working on moderating; but I also have come to terms with allowing myself to have gratifying times outside of socializing—particularly dating—and expressing this to others.
The second, and more significant, way involves reflecting on the idea of serving my own interests and happiness. While working on my company’s NewFront last year, I periodically heard this statement from filmmaker Ava DuVernay, as recorded for the video series Badass Women from InStyle:
“I feel really energized and electrified by the time that we’re in; these times will be studied! So the question is: what did you do? What did you do during this time?”
It was a rather casual, fleeting quote in its context, but it has stuck with me ever since as an important, contemplative inquiry. Now that I’ve come out of my education and set out on a path for the rest of my life, I find myself often questioning: what do I want to make of my time on this earth? What do I want to be remembered for? What do I want to give to this world? I certainly want to continue to indulge in my personal interests and enjoy life’s pleasures; but, with the privilege of being mentally, financially, and physically well-off, I know there is more I could do to contribute to the communities and environments around me.
This process of finding not only what brings me happiness but also what value I can bring to humanity is a never-ending and complex one. Sometimes it can be hard to balance activities and interests that serve only my interests versus those that serve some sort of greater good, and I acknowledge that I am still figuring out that balance. I have taken the most pride in outwardly exploring gender discrepancies through fashion, though I know this is a very small-scale effort and is also a hobby that, despite it typically confining me to my room, simply brings me joy. I have expanded my environmentalist efforts a little bit—I have stripped way back of my plastic usage and have begun to contribute to composting—but there is clearly much more I could be doing and researching. As I continue to follow these pursuits, I hope to become the best version of myself that I can be—a version that includes not just a personal fulfillment but also giving back to the world that has let me lead this life.