Hold it! As my esteemed colleague Phoenix Wright might say.

There is a fundamental flaw in your argument, my friend. Just because we can identify a difference between simple pleasures (those defined by physical phenomena) and complex pleasures (those defined by cognition and critical reasoning), does not mean that one is necessarily better or more fulfilling than the other.

Stepping down off of Aristotle’s pedestal for a moment, I would like to consider the idea that, not only can your every-man obtain happiness, everybody can obtain happiness.

I’m not talking about a eudemonic sense of subconscious wellbeing. I’m talking about consistent and regular contentment and joy.

The thing is, everybody creates their own definition of what makes them happy based on the relative values of that individual. This relativistic values system means that while you or I might see fulfillment in the completion of a long term project, another might see it in a 6-pack of beer. What I am arguing right now is that neither one of these is any more worthwhile or fulfilling than the other.

As soon as we start to assign subjective values to the worth of various pursuits of our time, we are being inconsiderate of the situation and values of those around us. All happiness is subjective to situation and character. It is borderline contentious to say that any pursuit (setting aside the utilitarian sense) is worth more than any other pursuit outside of our own personal perspective.

It’s all well and good to line pleasures up on a spectrum – perhaps from those that are instinctual to those that are intellectual – but that does not create just cause for distinction of worth. It is possible for many things to be different and equitable at the same time.

On a similar train of thought, I’d like to make the distinction between values and happiness. Values (to a certain extent) are the parameters that define what makes us happy, and what we want to strive for. Just as you cannot assign arbitrary values of worth to happiness, you similarly cannot say that any one value is “higher” or “worth more” than another. To be higher implies superiority. We can arrange values on a scale and define them by region, culture, religion etc. But, we cannot assign worth to these values without imposing our own subjective viewpoint onto others.

“What about Utilitarianism?” cry the peanut gallery! “Egalitarianism!”

To this I say, hold your horses. Even as we begin to look at philosophy that considers the happiness and success of all people in mass such as game theory, GDP focus, majority rule (philosophies that I happen to agree with), we still cannot use these as decisive factors in determining the worth of others actions.

Why not? Well, for precisely the same reason that we can’t objectively assign worth to happiness: whether or not you agree with these philosophies is a reflection of your own personal values and cannot be extrapolated to apply to any other person.

In psychology this concept is referred to as relativism – the idea that “points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration” [American Heritage Dictionary].

So where does this leave us? Isn’t relativism a slippery slope towards Absurdism?

Well, no not really. Absurdists believe that there is no humanly obtainable value or truth in anything. Much like with Nihilism, this is a moot point. Saying that everything equates to nothing or saying that everything equates to something is the same thing. In the end, the distinction between nothing, and something (1 and 0) is purposeless because the conclusion that life is meaningless doesn’t make life stop existing.

The point I’m trying to make is not that there is no way to define happiness, or no way to guide people to happiness. I don’t believe that. Rather, I am fighting against the contentious notion that any single person is worth more, is doing more, is living a more fulfilling life than any other person. This is plainly untrue. Money, success, intelligence, accomplishment, physical fitness or any other arbitrary value we assign to the worth of someone’s life are horrible indicators, because they are relative to our own personal perspective. Aristotle may have believed himself to be above those around him. I, however, reject that notion.

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First off, apologies for being late. School also started for me and it’s likewise been a bit nuts.

Secondly, AHA! I’ve got you! As I suspected, you identified a difference between base pleasures and higher values, and you chose to define different levels (I’m going to call them that for our purposes) of what you want, irrelevant to “happiness.” You also, most damningly, mentioned important values. In short, you described a worldview, or at least, a view towards what you might think is best for your person, that is strikingly similar to Aristotle’s! AHA!

As the man to first coin the term “ethics,” he and his co-conspirators Socrates and Plato have  an indelible mark on American ideology. He also helped congeal a perceived difference between hedonism and a much more puritan ideal of a virtuous person. Classic Hedonists would not see a difference between say, a steady iv drip of heroin, passionate love-making, or completing a whittling project. Pleasure is pleasure. But to most people, I think, there are base pleasures, and higher pleasures, which is why we can here call them levels of pleasure. The highest pleasures last the longest, but are more subtle. These we would call virtues, or values.

For instance, you and I value ambition. But as you say, being too ambitious is a problem: you might pursue something to the detriment of yourself. I might be wrong, but refuse to see it, for instance. So there’s a scale on which you could be too ambitious, or too little. Perhaps “ambitious,” then, is the wrong word for it- the far right end. The left end would be sloth, and the middle, what you want, is “initiative,” and if we have a good amount of initiative in our lives, we will reap subtle rewards and be better people, and Aristotle thinks we will be happy.

But happiness need not be equivalent to pleasure. As Douglas Adams said, “you cannot know the question and the answer at the same time.” Similarly, if we were truly happy, we wouldn’t really care to spend time thinking about it, would we? We would already have initiative, courage, humility, love, empathy, worldliness, knowledge, what have you, and most importantly, we would be implicitly confident enough not to know that we were these things at all. You know, if you have to question whether or not your action was right, are you doing it to be right, or are you doing it because it’s right? If you’re truly Mother Teresa, you wouldn’t think about whether or not to give food to orphans, and you wouldn’t think about how it reflects on you. When we reach Mother Teresa’s level, we will have changed as people and we will have achieved “Eudaimonia,” which is Greek-speak for something I suppose is equivalent to the Buddha’s Transcendence, except we don’t leave the Eternal Wheel, or whatever.

There are a lot of classic problems with Aristotle’s Ethics, but I’ve always liked it because it’s loose. He doesn’t actually think anyone will ever really know what they really want, but they still want it. The virtues that lead one to Eudaimonia need not be the same for everyone, depending upon the situation, and it need not be possible for everyone to reach it in their life. Aristotle actually says that the working man won’t have the time to devote himself to leading a good life, and still others will never have the opportunity to demonstrate, say, courage or selflessness, or perhaps many virtues, and they will not have the opportunity to reap the higher pleasures afforded to those who can demonstrate most virtues. In short, it’s for rich people with time on their hands.

But it’s looseness has not stopped it from defining, or perhaps discovering, what makes Americans tick on a fundamental ethical level. We all have ideal versions of ourselves that we each strive for, whether or not those versions are within reach. We all are taught virtues early in life by people who believe that those virtues will lead us to a life well lived. And we all know some people who seem more at peace than others. Maybe they don’t show it, maybe they haven’t achieved enlightenment or anything, but they are perhaps “happier” holistically than other poor souls who hurt themselves and others.

But eh, people are complicated.

[This post is a response to the previous post]

I figured I’d make a general response to your reflections on the blog first, Connor, before I delve into the rabbit hole of what makes me happy.

I agree with your observation that sequential planning has been somewhat absent from our posts (mine as well, not just yours). I also sympathize with your sentiment, however, that you’ve found a sense of consistency in your writing style from this. To a lesser extent, I have as well.

Much as it behooves me to talk about how our readers perceive this blog (especially since we appear not to have any), I think that it’s important to recognize how our posts look as a body of work and not just standalone pieces.

That being said, the primary reason I continue to write on this blog – in addition to all of the excellent reasons you mentioned – is because I feel like we really have something unique in our dialogue with one another. I also tend to believe (perhaps somewhat egotistically) that these conversations are interesting and dynamic in a way that will be entertaining for other people.

I think that if we focus primarily on our discussions and contentions as two friends debating topics, then the flow of the blog will start to develop on its own.

Hopefully. I think it’s a nice ideal, at least.

I definitely plan on sticking to the blog to the best of my abilities. To explain why I feel this is so important to me, I have to summarize my last week of experiences. In a word: Crazy.

Starting at a new school in a new city has been absolutely the coolest, busiest, scariest, and hardest thing that I have ever done. There is so little around me that has any sort of formal consistency that I feel inclined to cling onto the pieces of my old life that I still have available to me.

Am I suggesting that this is something we’ll be doing for the rest of our lives? No, it probably won’t be. But, I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea. In any case, with the way that people are running around campus like lunatics right now, long and meaningful conversation is somewhat difficult to come by.

Anyway, that’s why I want to continue writing the blog. As far as I’m concerned, the added benefits of writing experience and mental organization are just a bonus.

But, on to your question: What makes me happy?

I hope you don’t mind if I respond, first, by immediately returning the question. What makes you happy? I don’t agree that one’s own personal happiness is something that is easily identifiable. If it were, therapists would surely go out of business. I’ll make an attempt however.

As I write this, I am currently sitting on a bench at the duck pond in the middle of UNM campus. It’s very peaceful – students are in classes, there’s the sound of flowing water, I’m surrounded by beautiful weeping willow trees. It makes me happy to be here, away from the noise. Serene.

Plenty of things make me happy. Food makes me happy. Listening to music makes me happy. Sex, alcohol, exercise, sleep, friends, conversation, books, movies, and video games all make me happy. But, these are all fairly simple pleasures. I think most people could identify these fruits of life that are unquestionably enjoyable. I believe, however, that you meant a deeper and more abstract definition of happiness. That’s quite a bit harder to answer.

I get enjoyment from accomplishment, from winning, from creating, from affirmation. I’m happiest when I think that I’ve done something unique or special; when I get confirmation from others that I’m good at something. I’m happy when I discover something, when I solve a puzzle, or when I finish a book. But can I tie all of these things into a general philosophy for happiness? No not really.

It’s easy to identify what has made you happy in the past and much, much harder to determine why they made you happy in the first place, or whether these things are a valuable use of your time.

I love feeling like I’m on the top. It’s one of the things that make me such an ambitious person, but that’s not necessarily the end all of what it takes to make me happy. I can find many instances when losing or being proven wrong has actually resulted in a better experience or more long term happiness than I would have received out of being the alpha.

Similarly I can’t justify saying that my current definition of happiness is fleshed out either, because there is still so much that I have to experience in my life.

Then we also have to consider all of the things that don’t explicitly make me happy, but are very important values in my life such as finishing school, getting a good job, being successful, and starting a family. Those things don’t necessarily fit into my personal definition of happiness either.

In the end, that leaves me back where most people are. I know pretty much what I want out of life and why, but I can never be sure that it’s really what I want. I can never be sure that my reasons and justifications for what makes me happy aren’t just shallow constructs of outside factors of my life.

In many ways, this is what I meant when I talked about abstract concepts defying definition. Similarly, abstract and complicated motives and emotions inside of us also defy distinction. I don’t believe that anyone can ever find a true sense of inner equilibrium.

That’s ok though. As I once expressed to our old friend Shiloh, when he was having hard times, “You will always be a different person than the person that you want to be”. In other words, no matter who you are or how much you improve your life, or your personal situation, you will always feel like you aren’t living up to your own expectations. This is because people have near limitless potential.

To leave with a good thought – I think life would be boring if it weren’t that way. In fact, I’m glad. To me, not being able to define myself and what makes me happy means that I can always shoot a little higher, always be a little happier, always do a little more. I’ll never be at the highest point of where I’m going to be, and that means I’ll always be looking up.

I’d like to, for a moment, take a look at what we have so far, and talk about what I want from this blog, and then I’d like to ask you a quick question, Ben.

Firstly, I read through my previous posts and thought deliriously “what was I on?” before remembering that I wrote each one without really a thought towards planning or for readers. I never expected my first essays written outside the school system to read like those do. For instance, I mentioned Aristotle’s theories in two essays, and referenced him in all three extensively, but I’ve never thought of myself as a fan of Virtue Ethics. Me? I thought deontology was the way to go, all the way, in school. Also, I found myself trying to turn new phrases, like “seeing life lived was the only life to live.” I don’t think that’s going to catch on, but I’ve learned it’s really fun to play around with words and phonetics.

So I’ve learned a bit about myself, which is an amazing boost for this experiment. I thought it would take a few months, not a few weeks, to see some patterns in what I writing about. My hypothesis, and what I hoped for, hope for, is that not only will I learn something about myself, but that A)  I will have a portfolio of ideas to look back on so that I can say to myself “You’ve done something you put your mind to, Connor” and B) I will also become a better writer. Now, I think I get too carried away with mashing together themes and motifs and whatnot, and it comes out sounding like pretentious pseudo-intellectual bs.

Which it is, maybe. I dunno. Yes. Maybe I don’t give myself enough credit, maybe you’re your own toughest critic. And to a great extent, that criticism can be laid on 95% of the opinion pieces and intellectual blogs on the internet, which brings me to the other reason why I’m doing this: I hope becoming a better writer entails an ability to become a serious writer, rather than one who writes half-hour articles on 50c online newspapers. I know it’s not that simple, but perhaps if I get the writing down, the research and the critical thinking will be easier to tackle. But maybe that’s what all those terrible writers also think.

Lastly, I want to stick to this because I’m tired of second-guessing myself to the point of inaction. I know you just wrote about that aspect of procrastination, and I think there are some problems with the catch-phrase, but on the whole it strikes at a central aspect of why I sometimes don’t finish what I put my mind to. So I have to hand it to both of us that we’ve made it this far, and that we’ve already done something I find interesting. Also I read our new “about” section- great job!

But I don’t want to count my chickens before they’re hatched. The new school year is starting soon and if I remember back to my first freshman year I had a great project going with my friend, Michael, where we were going to write episodes of a short radio show about a hobo looking for his long-lost daughter in a kafkaesque, rain-drenched city. To me, it was a way to maintain contact with him and provide a basis for an interchange of ideas between the two of us about our new experiences at our respective colleges. But as soon as we got to our respective colleges, we found that our lives didn’t have room anymore for us to sit down weekly and skype about the humorous adventures of a mutual hero. To return to the concept of procrastination, I’ve found that changing circumstances is the number one reason why my plans don’t always go through. Sometimes I plan a time for a homework assignment, and find then that that time doesn’t work out for reasons good or bad. Sometimes months devoted to one plan turn out to work better for another, and to some extent, that’s life. We can’t really predict the future, can we? So it goes.

At the same time, when I don’t get what I want, I’m unhappy. I’m unhappy in my fatalistic response to changing circumstances. I’m dissatisfied with the way life goes if you don’t change your own goals to coincide with your changing circumstances, and I don’t like it when I’m too flexible and drop any plans to ride the wave of whatever is happening through a particular time in my life. I want control, but manageable goals are a necessity. So that’s why, initially, I’d like to take this slowly and alternate weeks, so that we have a week to respond to the previous post. With that in mind, some food for thought:

What makes you happy? I mean, you’ve established that it’s a difficult concept, happiness, and that there’s no right answer. But at the same time, people older and wiser than the two of us have indeed found a variety of serviceable and fully-baked answers to your questions that many other people have supported for centuries. So I bet, as I have just learned to some extent, that if you did in fact look at the way your life works, you’d find an inner logic to what makes you happy, and a strong personal definition to what happiness is to you. What is that definition to you? I don’t care so much that it’s a hard or easy question. Furthermore, I bet if you answered that question, we could find some philosophers who have already expanded on it! Which I think is the greatest part of philosophy; that we share the human experience so closely that we come to similar conclusions about abstract concepts sometimes thousands of years apart.

Happiness. What does it mean to be happy? Why do we want to be happy? Is happiness a valid pursuit or goal? Is it a separable state of the psyche?

Happiness is one of those taboo, abstract words of the same category as “love”, “Life”, or “Freedom”. Such terms defy psychological and philosophical analysis. After all, how do you go about putting  box around the amorphous monster that is our wide and varied definition of “happiness”? If there was an easy answer to this question than it would have been discovered long ago by people much wiser and much more worldly than either you or me.

Why must we persist in the exercise then? For some reason, we have a bizarre and irrational need for explanation of this whole “happiness” business. Much in the same track as the search for the meaning of life, it is a quest that is doomed to be as unresolved as it is ubiquitous.

Consider the following question: If I could give you a pill that would make you euphorically happy all the time, whenever you wanted, with no repercussions, would you take it?

To this too, there is no easy answer. If you take the pill, are you not forsaking the value of the journey? Doesn’t receiving instant gratification defeat the whole purpose of accomplishment in any form? After all, how can we – goal based, reward oriented creatures – apply any value to life if it’s fruits are so readily within reach?

The alternative answer raises no more palatable queries though. If you decide you do not want to take the happiness pill, then you are saying that there is a thing in life you value more than being happy. What could possibly have a higher value than ecstasy in being? Is that not our very definition of heaven; the very thing that humans have dreamed and built for throughout the entirety of our species existence?

There is no easy answer. Intellectually we know that there are pursuits in which we must sacrifice our own personal comfort in exchange for scientific progress, or family, or the greater good. But, we must always balance our sense of social empathy with our own desire for exuberance.

The religiously inclined believe that through deprivation of certain worldly pleasures they will be rewarded with pleasure far greater than any mortal happiness available to us in this plane of existence. This begins to approach another problem in the happiness dilemma though: where is the upper limit? Is an exceptionally happy rich man happier than an exceptionally happy fisherman? Doesn’t the mere idea of hierarchical rapture devalue all happiness below “infinite” to zero?

Buddhist monks have been said to achieve enlightenment or full understanding on their existence through meditation and solitude. Is their “enlightenment” a reflection of universal truths or is it merely a product of an incomplete equation? After all, one can imagine that it is much easier to come to conclusions about the universe when you have seen less of it to begin with. If all you ever knew was a small stone room in a monastery, then perhaps you could come to beautiful and even profound conclusions about that room, but they would not necessarily reflect the universe at large.

We are all living in our own version of the Monk’s stone room. We define the highs and lows of our life, our ecstasy and our anguish, by the depth of what we have already experienced. All happiness and all pain is relative to the experiences of the person experiencing it.

There was once a young girl held captive in a concentration camp for many years of her life. She had little to no outside stimulation. When asked what gave her happiness, what she found “fun”, she replied “the color yellow”.

Our search for meaning and definition in happiness is a boundless and limitless search that will expand as our perception of the universe (and our relative experiences there-in) expand. It is not impossible to imagine that one could artificially engineer their experiences to be an ever expanding series of increasingly happy and sad experiences so as to never prematurely reach the “happiest moment of their life”. To a large extent, our journey into adulthood already accomplishes this unintentionally.

Since there is no right answer to these questions, there can be no wrong answers either. Happiness and fulfillment are not concepts that can be captured in a jar and held up for inspection. Happiness can be found anywhere and in anything. Your own personal search for it or search away from it can only ever be influenced, not foretold. Be that as it may, our understanding of the human psyche and the universe around it is ever-expanding in its depth and reach. We may yet philosophize strange and complex proofs. However, much like with Plato’s cave, it is likely that the search for meaning among happiness and its definitions will ever be undercut but uncertainty. You can only ever decide what happiness means for yourself.

When I was a kid I wanted to travel all around the world just visiting places, seeing life lived was the only life to live. I still would like to live for a very long time, just so I won’t miss anything. But that is impossible. When I grew older, I realized that traveling forever was impossible, too. I wanted to hunt rubies in the Ganges River, and live at a Buddhist temple, study each painting in the Louvre, hike across Kilimanjaro, steal food in Morocco, learn calculus in Berlin, and play soccer in Rio de Janeiro. I wanted, I think, to live as much as possible, and the only way was to live not only my own life, but a monk’s life, an artist’s life, a scientist’s life, and a street urchin’s life.

But when I grew older, I realized that traveling forever was not my life. I don’t have the resources of Larry Darrell, the riches to find enlightenment while free of the insecurities of destitution: Without a job, where and how will I sleep, eat, live? What will I do, alone in a strange country. I’m not Bruce Wayne, either. I can’t gently touch the life of crime, careful never to actually steal from someone other than myself, and throw myself into prison touting angst and the absence of a parental hand. Both Bruce Wayne and Larry Darrell can make a withdrawal if they ever get into trouble, and fall into a safety net made of cash.

That is trite of me.

I must learn to travel while standing still, perhaps. I must learn to savor each and every day, and reach enlightenment while working nine-to-five. The stapler and the keyboard are worlds enough, and time. Aristotle himself said that the common folk didn’t have time to lead a good life, but I’ll find it. Maybe it’s in my cigarette break, or in the microwave’s countdown. Three, two, one, I have it, the answer to everything. I know now what I must do- the winged chariot at my back doesn’t frighten me! I can travel the world freely in my mind!

This is what I used to say to myself when I was upset that my life wasn’t going to plan, and that I wasn’t traveling the world. I did not, however, find enlightenment in the stapler, in all seriousness. In fact, retaining simple lessons from experiences still eludes me. It is all confusing. Now I think about traveling, and I think I wouldn’t be living any life but the mute observer’s, unable to really connect with what I was seeing in others. Bruce Wayne’s wisdom is comic-book madness, I am forced to conclude, and Larry Darrell is fiction from Somerset Maugham. I think if I was a traveler I would be seeking enlightenment not in staplers, but in train tickets and tiny soap bars.

This is possibly cynical, as it implies that enlightenment or even eudaimonic happiness or what have you is equally hard for the rich and the poor. Possibly it is but wishful thinking, against Aristotle’s theory that the good life was only accessible by the rich. Now, I am forced by my need for some light at the end of the tunnel, to conclude that there is a problem with the system in America that makes the pursuit of happiness unduly hard for the average American. Whether it be some dark thing within our culture or the mistakes of all-too-human lawmakers, there needs to be a thing in between me and happiness, dammit. I seem to need a reason as to why I can’t be reasonably happy, and you know what, why can’t there be a reason? That would give me a problem to solve, and regardless, I think I would be happiest trying to solve it, even if it is impossible, like making myself live for a very long time.

Today I quit my job. It’s the fourth and best job I’ve had since I took my first job at 17, and I’d be lying if I said I left it easily. I worked as a valet, parking cars for the local Indian Casino in my home town. It wasn’t glamorous work, but it was fun and it paid the bills. Getting my job there also helped me through some of the roughest transitions of my life.

Leaving the casino is a strange mixture of freedom and melancholy. In a lot of ways, the year and a half I worked there has shaped who I am and changed my perspective on the world. Of course, I’m glad to be moving on with my life – going to university has been something I’ve looked forward to since I was seven – but at the same time, I’ll be leaving everything, everything, behind to start a new life someplace else. All the friends I’ve made, all the haunts I favorite, all the memories (good and bad) that have shaped me, they’ll soon be hundreds of miles away.

Of course, this latest change in my life is precipitated by a whole host of other changes. My father got a new job. My family is relocating to a different side of the state. My friends are moving on with their lives and entering the work place. At the age of 22, it would be ridiculous and unhealthy for me to expect my life to remain static. But, it is still depressing to realize that the consistency that I once took for granted is now unobtainable to me. To be uprooted from the life I’ve lived for the last decade is… disorienting, to say the least.

In a lot of ways, I owe the casino a great deal. Receiving my job with them provided stability in the rocky and out of focus world around me. It’s difficult to look back from where I am now and realize just how far I’ve come in the last year.

In 2011 my mother was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Illness always seems so distant and irrelevant until its bitter realities come crashing into your life. My mother and father did not hide my mother’s illness from my siblings and me. They explained the risks and changes very forthrightly. We were fortunate; my mother had excellent care. By spring of 2012 she was completely cured of her cancer, but it did not leave us unmarked.

My mother’s treatment was hard on everybody. For me, it meant more chores and responsibilities in a life that had been succinctly devoid of these before. It was also hard to see my mother struggle with the throes of cancer treatment. I wish I could say that I rose to these challenges admirably, but people have a nasty habit of not responding well to change. And so, rather than shoulder the burden like an adult, I took the opposite route.

I dropped out of every single one of my classes at the local community college I was attending. I began to withdraw from friends and social interaction. I spent increasingly large amounts of time in my room playing video games. I’m not proud of the person I became then.

By the end of 2012 my parents had had enough. I was out of work, out of school, and out of shape. They gave me an ultimatum – ‘pack your things, or get your shit together’ – and I was just stupid enough to take them up on it.

I was thrown out of my house. I had no job, and was living off the charity of one of my few remaining friends. My budget for food each week was $20, which I obtained by selling off what I had left of my possessions (an Ipad, some gift cards, my tools). For four months, I slept on a broken old couch and survived off of ramen and bulk chicken. I’m not proud of that time in my life either.

But I will say one thing about it. It did make me get my shit together. Entirely out of necessity, I was forced to look for work. I had to stop being so irresponsible because I had to find a job and I needed to present myself well to do so.

When I say that I owe the casino a lot, I mean just that. A job parking cars is not a glamorous job, but to me, it was godsend. When I got my job at the casino, I was desperate. I was living off of fumes. Having a real paycheck that I could care for myself with meant the world to me.

I have been as far down the path of self-destruction as I really ever care to go. As I sit here and type all of this out, warm and well fed, it is easy to lose touch with the humility that comes of sleeping in a freezing house on an empty stomach. It’s hard to connect myself now, confident and competent, to the pitiable character I was then. I never could have transitioned – would not be making this next great leap into the unknown – had it not been for the compassion shown to me then.

So to help bridge the mental gap between here and there, and to help give me closure, I would like to offer the reader the following truths taught to me by the last year and a half of my life:

1.)    You are never alone. Everywhere around you are people and resources willing to help you. The hardest part is swallowing your pride to accept them. Realize that people do not look down on those who ask for assistance. Heros arise not from those who can do by themselves, but from those who can collaborate with those around them.

2.)    Maturity comes in many shapes and sizes. One of the most important is called consistency. Be fair to people, show up on time, make good on your promises, and be honest. Not just sometimes, but all the time. People will respect you more and feel as though you do too.

3.)    Burning bridges is much, much easier than fixing them and fixing bridges is crucially important. Baggage ways down everything you do and strive to do. You owe it to yourself not to allow your problems to have free rent in your head. While it’s easy to advise someone to “get over it” it’s much harder to do in practice. Mend conflicts whenever possible.

4.)    Teamwork and leadership go hand and hand. You cannot be a good leader without being a good team player. Being the person in charge is not a dominance race. Good leaders understand and respect the people they lead. The other intricacies of management are smoke and mirrors.

5.)    You can make friends with anyone. People are just people. There are mean people, creepy people, rough people, and weird people. Getting along with someone doesn’t mean the same thing as agreeing with them. Deep down, most people just want to be appreciated for who they are.

6.)    If your boss every asks you to fill in for graveyard “just for a week”, politely decline unless you have a particularly strong desire to not see the sun for the next 6 months.

In a little less than three weeks, I’ll be headed off to university. It’s exciting and incredibly nerve wracking. But, I’m confident in my ability to pull through. If my time at the casino has given me one thing, it’s the drive I need to continue onward. I’ll never forget my roots or my experiences. The goods and bads of the small town I grew up in have shaped me into the person I am today. The lessons I learned here will carry me on well through the rest of my life. Though I might have wished for more glamour or more adventure. I wouldn’t trade it away. Any of it.