AndersonA long time ago, back when I was first starting high school, my dad offered one piece of advice for me to take or leave. He told me to find what makes me happy and relentlessly pursue it. That way, whatever I chose to do with my life, I would always love what I did and never grumble when my alarm went off in the morning.

I took his advice, locked it in the back of my mind and forgot about it.

Fast forward a couple of years.

My junior year of high school, I found myself overwhelmed by everything I was involved in. From student government to work to church, I couldn’t handle it anymore.

I was in too deep. Sleep deprivation became my norm. “No” was a word missing from my vocabulary. I found myself hating the moment when my alarm would interrupt me from the one break I had — sleep.

As a junior, I had hit my breaking point, but I wasn’t ready to give up. Reluctantly, I decided it was time to quit one or two things.

Quitting the activities my life had revolved around was one of the toughest things I’ve faced. Too much work was thrown away in two words: “I quit.” Little did I know those two words would radically change my perspective on life.

Fast forward one year.

Halfway through my senior year of high school, I have never been happier. While it hurt to turn away from the things that filled my life for so long, they no longer made me happy. Some people may see this as a selfish move. My response? How can I make others happy through something I’m not happy doing?

It’s like a musician playing a song she despises, or an athlete playing a sport he doesn’t enjoy. One key ingredient is missing: passion.

Without passion, action is missing substance. I lost all passion I had for some things I was involved in, which made me unhappy and the people who surrounded me unhappy.

Instead of spreading myself too thin, filling my life with numerous activities that didn’t mean much to me, I now focus on a few things that I find immense joy in. A year ago, it seemed to be the hardest decision to say “no” to something, but now I clearly see the benefits of being selective with my time and energy.

Like most decisions in life, I could not see the outcome immediately. I could only trust that the result would be better in the end.

As I type this article, I am sitting in my church, waiting for my weekly youth group to begin. The worship band is practicing in the other room and I am surrounded by silent serenity. There is nowhere in the world I would rather be. This is one of a few things I have narrowed my time down to.

Instead of wasting another minute struggling to find joy, I surround myself with an atmosphere of true passion and joy. I am happy because I enjoy what I do and I know those around me do too.

While it may be a timeless cliché, life is too short to not enjoy what you do. After years of trial and error, I have finally heeded my father’s advice. From one wandering soul to another, find what makes you happy and pursue it with everything you have.

Keeley Anderson is a senior at West Linn High School. She is contributing a regular column to the Tidings this school year.

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