Dictating My Own Happiness

By: Kathleen McAuliffe, Guest Blogger July 7, 2015

With my summer internship, I’ve officially “gone corporate.” Blearily woken up for that 5 AM alarm, squeezed in a workout, grabbed a Diet Coke for the road, paid an hour of wages for a train pass,joined a silent dead-eyed mass of commuters silently streaming through the cars.

Certainly, this schedule constitutes a complete 180 from my schooldays this spring, most of which I spent aimlessly wandering around my school’s beach. But whether it’s my cardio-fueled endorphins or tolerance for early mornings, I nonetheless feel more energized than my fellow commuters. I spring up the platform steps each morning while others trudge. While most of the others sleep in their seats, I watch, fascinated as my silent suburban surroundings give way to a buzzing urban utopia.

Perhaps my enthusiasm stems from the novelty of it all. My temporary intern status affords me the luxury of treating professional life as a modern day dress up game. Instead of Mom’s dresses and makeup, I’m trying on the concepts of responsibility and professionalism. But in three months, if I’ve become tired of the game, my carefree college life awaits. My permanent career, the one that’ll consume 40+ of my weekly hours indefinitely, remains an exciting and mysterious opportunity lurking in the future.


Though incredibly unlikely, the possibility still remains that I’ll land one of those glamourous jobs allowing for intrigue and international travel. Maybe once I become entrenched in the endless routine of my permanent routine, I too will treat my train ride to work as a funeral procession.

During my first week of “real world” responsibilities, that picture of listlessness and monotony has lingered in my mind. Devoting half of my waking hours to a boring, stressful (or both!) position terrifies me, whether for 12 weeks or 40 years. I don’t naturally bubble with overflowing enthusiasm, so I hope to safeguard my spark against the mundanity of 9-to-5 life.

Hopefully, my first professional experience will challenge me enough to overcome the grind. If my new position mentally stimulates and/or emotionally invigorates me, fantastic. If not, real-life office politics should at least provide some laughs. Worst case scenario, my office at least has a casual dress code and unlimited access to Instagram.

 it requires a fear of the alternative- of navigating life as a trial to be endured rather than a delicacy to be savored.

Ultimately, I’ve consciously chosen to monitor every situation for its positivity. I continually reminded myself to perceive problems as challenges, outlandish situations as jokes, and failures as teaching opportunities. When my countdown to 5 PM begins at 5 AM, my active pursuit of optimism will renew my spirit.

Our news feeds constantly bombard us with headlines proclaiming the positive health/emotional/whatever effects of a “positive attitude,” but rarely tell us how to construct that mindset from nothing. As I’ve learned, it requires a concerted and consistent effort. More importantly, it requires a fear of the alternative- of navigating life as a trial to be endured rather than a delicacy to be savored.

This advice applies regardless of your summer plans- if you too are working your first “big kid job”, or studying abroad in an unfamiliar city, or simply messing around with old friends at home. Though this intentional approach toward positivity can be challenging, take solace in the fact that only you and your mind dictate your happiness.

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About Kathleen

KATHLEEN_MCAULIFFE.jpgKathleen is a psychology major living in Chicago, her favorite place in the world. Aside from writing, she is obsessed with the news and social media, as well as running and overall fitness. She dreams of living somewhere on a beach once she graduates, but after studying abroad in Europe she wants to explore everywhere.



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