On the Pursuit of Happiness
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Health Wellness

What Stage of Happiness Are You In?

Aesthetic Stage, Ethical Stage, or Religious Stage?

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What Stage of Happiness Are You In?
Maria Marrugo

I find myself somewhere between relativism and absolutism.

Most days, I wake up and I want to know everything about everything. I want to soak up all the information worth knowing, I read the news and want to know what's going on around the world. While some days, it all scares me. I want to shut the world out and feel at ease. While I was reading my class lecture for my Religion (Roman Catholicism) class, I read a quote that inspired this whole article, "the various stages of knowledge are also stages of freedom".

Hmmm. Now bear with me, as I try to explain the light bulb that went off in my brain.

I don't know much about the various stages of knowledge, I'm only 20. Yet, in recent events, I have noticed that there are certain people I can talk to and not feel judge; while others... not so much. For some weird reason, I thought that college was going to be this place filled with intellectuals, that wanted to discuss politics while getting hammered.

Well, not so much. I recently watched a video, in which Johann Hari talks about depression and anxiety, and a correlation to this generation. not only are we more apt to depression and mental health issues, but he made certain points that have been replaying in the back of my mind.

(Maria Marrugo)

Usually, when you are depressed (aside from the so-called "chemical unbalance") it's because you are missing something. Hari describes that 'something' in numerous ways, and it varies for everyone. Today, we have chosen to live a very technological driven society. We have chosen comfort and convenience; but what we don't know is how detrimental this is going to be until it is too late.

In simple English, we often times feel empty, or like we are not living 'enough' because we (as humans) are out of our element. We were not created to live in concrete jungles. Contrary to popular belief, humans need some form of nature. We have shifted the way in which we have lived, and many consider that to be a wonderful thing.

Not only did we build cages for animals at zoo's; but we're also creating cages for ourselves. There are the few that are in touch with their inner self, I am one of them. I try to listen to my instincts, and it scares me what I have found since I started to pay attention. WE ARE NOT OKAY.

There are three stages that correlate to happiness: aesthetic, ethical and religious. I have been within all three, and I am currently residing in the religious stage.

Aesthetic Stage

Pleasure over matter. Aesthetically pleasing, this stage is one of my favorites. This is the stage, that I always seem to 'go back to'.When I was a freshman I lived a very 'dangerous' life. I was doing what I want, when I wanted, and how I wanted. I had no limits. I was having fun before class, enjoying psychology and all it had to offer. Over analyzing everyone and everything, and I loved it, but not for long. This freestyle kind of living left me drained, and I couldn't find anyone to do it with me.

(Maria Marrugo)

To be fair, I think I've spent most of the time in this stage. I want to say end of high school, and beginning of college. At first it didn't affect me. But then I started doing things, that I don't ever want anyone else knowing. I started exploring my inner ugliness.

(I refer to my inner ugliness as the dark part of me that does things that are very disturbing. It ranges from thoughts, to actions; it's the side that I hide even within myself)

My ugliness came out a little when I was in Rome. My friends and I went out this boat club (yes an actual club located on the top floor of a boat) and the Black Eyed Peas song "Let's Get It Started" came on. But the original version came on. You should have seen the surprise on my face when I heard the uncensored version of this song. To start off, it's 'Let's Get Retarded', but it was changed because it offended numerous people.

I am not trying to argue whether this is right or wrong, I'm just trying to explain how I first perceived it. When I heard the lyrics, I laughed so hard, it was one of those reliving laughs. Then the guilt hit me. (Yes I know, even in my drunken moments I am deep within my thoughts). I felt guilty, but I didn't know why... I am not using this term in a demeaning, derogatory term. I am simply saying it, because I want to have so much fun that I want to be dancing so hard right now. I stopped dancing and looked at my friends, everyone was dancing.

Other Italians, didn't understand that back in America, this would have caused a ruckus. I looked at Emma, and yelled, "omg I can't believe it says this". Then I started yelling it, all of it; and I felt the most liberating sense come over me. I haven't felt this free, in a long long time.

There I was, middle of the river somewhere in Rome, yelling a word that has been deemed (by our society) as unacceptable. I wasn't saying those things with any intend of malice, or with the intentions of hurting anyone. I am aware that this might upset people, and that's exactly what I mean by ugliness. I felt free by yelling this at the top of my lungs.

(Maria Marrugo)

Ethical Stage

The ethical stage, my least favorite for reasons that go far beyond my own realm of understanding. In this stage, one does what we 'are supposed to'. We behave in the way in which our environment has shaped us to be, and we follow it, like cowards. Towards the end of my study abroad, I was lost. I didn't like my school, or the people I was surrounded with so I made decisions purely with the intention to fit in. I thought that perhaps if i finally did what everyone was doing, I would be happier?

I started fitting in. Dressing like people were dressing, talking a certain way. I even started traveling less, which was the biggest mistake I've ever done. For so long, I thought there was something wrong with me for never being content with being in one place. I mean, don't get me wrong, there probably are very deep-rooted issues with always wanting to be on the move, but it's my deep-rooted problem to deal with. I guess society is not very fond of individuals that do not stay in one place. They are deemed incapable of 'attaching', or whatever nonsense.

I am so damn scared to connect with people because I don't like being that vulnerable. I don't like not being in control of my thoughts. I don't like the fact that I would change my own wants and needs for someone else. Thus, I found the most subtle way to avoid it, traveling.

There's this huge hunger in me to travel. I love everything about it, so while I was trapped in my 'college activities', I was missing out. I was missing out on staying true to myself, and that was a hard pill to swallow. I was doing things that made me unhappy because I thought it was what people wanted. I thought it would make my life easier to fit it, and it did. Oh, it made it so easy.

This ethical way, was detrimental, but it was only so, because I did that to myself. To be ethical is not hard, but it is when everything in you is not ethical. This stage is simply making the right choices for the greater good. But I didn't want to please my family or my career.

Have you ever been asked your major, and analyzed people's reaction? Like when I wanted to be in psychology, but everyone kept making this, "really psychology, what are you going to do with that?", look. There was a point, where I was going back home and I still didn't have a major, so I picked the first thing that sounded decent and stuck with it. I didn't want to feel attacked when the major conversation came up, so I decided to give them an answer.

Religious Stage

Last but not least. This is the stage that I sought for the past two years. Feeling lost is an understatement. This is the one stage that I could say brings me peace. There was a point that I was going to church every Sunday for three months. The only struggle is that sometimes people pretend to be in this stage. Not that people can't pretend to be in the other stages, but this one is special in that way. Many people hide behind religion, claiming to seek God, and pray when it is convenient or difficult.

(Maria Marrugo)

I grew up Roman Catholic. I went to a Catholic school, and did my first communion in 3rd grade. I've seen the effects and extremes of hiding behind this 'belief' and it sickens me. In my study abroad I was at Vatican City, and I was so overwhelmed I started crying. I was waiting for the Pope with millions of people from across the world waiting to see him too. I closed my eyes and realized that I could never appreciate this moment the way my grandmothers would. They are the typical old fashioned religious grandmothers. They have taught me everything, and it felt wrong not being there with them.

(Maria Marrugo)

Then another thing hit me. I realized how insanely lucky I am. Some people (like my grandmothers) never travel. Or if they do, is within their country. Most people don't get to see or experience different countries. Let alone countries that millions of miles away. It hit me. Holy crap. How did I end up here? How am I so far away from Colombia? How must my parents feel? I mean seriously, having a daughter that just travels and is okay with leaving everyone and everything behind for her own happiness?


Bottom line, it doesn't really matter what you do. This is a world, in which we live in, and we have tried so hard to make rules, because rules are easy. Having a set standard makes us less scared, and less alone. But we are drifting from who we are, people. People are not meant to stay in one place. We are curious by nature. And we have managed to put ourselves in cages. Being happy could be simple, and that's our struggle.


(Maria Marrugo)

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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