Don’t give up on the pursuit of happiness

Jackie Valley

The Fourth of July is over, and with it, so is summer.

Yes, it is a pessimistic, glass-half-empty kind of outlook, but sadly, it’s true.

In a mere six weeks or so, peanut butter will be a hot commodity at grocery stores, alarm clocks will be back in action and minor traffic jams will form ten feet from the big yellow buses, much to the chagrin of morning commuters.

Mark my words: In fewer than two weeks, newspaper advertisements will be chock-full of the dreaded “back to school” sales.

Have I depressed you enough yet?

As college students, we at least have it a little easier. We get sprung from the wrath of academia in mid-May, and are subsequently (sort of) free for a solid 14 weeks.

Yet during those marvelous 14 weeks, most of us spend our hours working to pay the tuition bills or to finance fun in the fall.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not advocating a carefree summer compliments of mommy or daddy’s bank account. Everyone deserves a chance to experience the joys of summer employment: the good, the bad and the ugly.

But think back to the days when lemonade stands and driveway basketball dominated a schedule that was clear except for the occasional doctor appointment. It didn’t last long, did it?

In a survey released last week, the top wish among recent college graduates is to balance their career goals and social lives within three years of graduation.

Basically, we want to have our cake and eat it, too.

As a result, “lazy” is often the choice word our parents’ age bracket uses to describe the ’80s-babies generation.

OK, a tad more motivation might not hurt us, but society has inevitably shaped us into the seemingly lackluster individuals we are today.

Let’s face it: The quintessential American childhood depicted in The Little Rascals is a relic, visible only in syndication.

During the school year, extracurricular activities clog the calendar, and now, so-called “camps” designed to enhance abilities – both athletic and academic – are the norm for kids in the sunny days of summer, which are numbered anyway.

Therefore, “lazy” is not the word I would use to describe current and future generations in America. We are the involuntary participants of a Catch-22 situation.

We have grown up as the products of a nation relying on its daytime planners and Starbucks coffee to survive. If we play too much when we are young, we are miles behind our peers, whereas perpetual work leaves us craving the rare laidback moments of days gone by.

For a society characterized by its fast-paced lifestyle, it is incomprehensible to expect younger generations to wait for their “golden years” to enjoy life.

Aspiring to balance work and a social life can be viewed only as a healthy goal, undertaken by ambitious individuals seeking happiness.

After all, it is what our forefathers intended. Unfortunately, the demands of modern life eventually eclipsed the pursuit of happiness.

A revival of that quest is long overdue – all work and no play is simply no way to live.

Jackie Valley is a sophomore journalism major and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].