Finding Happiness Through Your College Major: Is it Possible?

When you ask people what they want to do with their life when they grow up you get a variety of answers such as, doctor, lawyer, or teacher. However, when you ask why they want to do that, you often get the answers, “it makes me happy”, or “it makes good money”.  Your answer often times depends on what you believe is more important. I have been raised my entire life with my mom constantly telling me, “Do what makes you happy because money can’t buy happiness”. Even though it is a cheesy line that often gets overused, I really took those words to heart when deciding my major and the career I would chose. At the beginning of last year I happened upon social work, and after further looking into it, I realized it was the perfect major for me and offered all of the classes I was interested in taking. I am going to attend the University of Texas in the fall which happens to offer the seventh best social work program in the country. Social workers go into a variety of different fields, but when I graduate I was to work as a child life specialist in a hospital, particularly on a palliative team. A child life specialist “provides emotional support for families, and encourages optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to health care and hospitalization”1.  The University of Texas describes palliative care as, “a model of healthcare which encompasses the whole person, not just their illness”2. Aristotle claims that the all knowledge and purpose aims at happiness which is the highest of all goods. A child life specialist is exactly what I want to do but the job itself isn’t going to make me happy, and at the same time isn’t the highest paying job. The average social worker makes between $44,985 and $41,334 depending on your degree and how long they have been working for3. The job itself is hard because it often means being in too deep and caring about the person and their illness because you build a connection with the individual and their family. With that being said, if social work does not bring me happiness, which is the end goal, and it does not pay as well as some other professions, is it worth being pursued as a career option for me?

In The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says that everything in life aims at what is good, but that varies for every individual based on their personal life. For me, I would aim to help as many children as possible to cope with their illnesses. He also says that the highest good that people aim for is happiness, and he defines it as, “the function of man is to live a certain kind of life, and this activity implies a rational principle, and the function of a good man is the good and noble performance of these, an if any action is well performed it is performed in accord with the appropriate excellence: of this is the case, the happiness turns out to be an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue”4. Based on what Aristotle is saying, it leads me to believe that being a child life specialist would not fulfill that level of happiness for me. The reason that humans can achieve true happiness is because of the fact that we were born with reason and are able to rationalize situations, but because of this we are not able to just achieve happiness through pleasure because that does not fully satisfy us.

Aristotle tells us that in order to achieve happiness it is important to have a good moral character or “complete virtue”. However, in order to be virtuous, it involves taking actions. Aristotle says, “He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life”5. Aristotle believes happiness comes though achieving all the goods that lead us to the enrichment of our own lives. This can be hard because often times the lesser good gives immediate pleasure and so we are tempted to forgo the better good which may take longer. Developing good character takes effort and can’t simply be done overnight. Having good character means deciding when you are doing something in excess and what you have too little of in your life, and focusing on equaling those things out. One thing that being a child life specialist would give me in my life is more virtue, because it would require me to exercise all of my virtues when I am around patients.

The majority of people believe that happiness is related to specific things like, health, money, or material goods. Aristotle believes we find value in these things because we see them as a means to obtaining happiness, but happiness in an end in itself. The Issue we often come across is that we view happiness as a moment, like having lunch with friends, being on vacation, or having no homework. However, Aristotle says happiness is a final end or goal that includes the entirety of one’s life. With Aristotle’s view in mind, we cannot say that we have lives a truly happy life until it is over. Aristotle says, “For it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy”6. Based off of this quote said by Aristotle, I can’t say for sure whether or not my profession will make me happy until I have lived my entire life, so there is no sure way to know if I will be unhappy being a child life specialist.

Becoming a child life specialist may be one of the most difficult things I ever do with my life, but it also may affect my life in positive ways even if it doesn’t bring me happiness one hundred percent of the time. Rachel Carnahan, a child life specialist that went through the University of Texas, had an article written about her in the Texas Arcade. In the article she talks about her experience, saying, “Starting out, I was so much sadder than I thought I would be”. She then goes on to talk about forming relationships with patients saying, “It was a rookie mistake, to try to bottle up grief after building a relationship with a child only to watch him suffer or die. Better to embrace the pain and then let it go”7. For Rachel, she had an adjustment period where she had to learn how to cope with the pain that surrounded her in her everyday life and I think that is something I am very capable of doing.

Although in the future as a child life specialist, my job may not be the kind where I come home and can’t wait to tell my family about it, and I may never have a day that goes by without a hitch or any sadness, it can still be very rewarding. I will have to learn to accept the little victories as they come and treat them as major victories. According to Aristotle, “happiness turns out to be an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue”8, and based off of this definition I am capable of finding happiness and pursuing the career I want.  Although my profession is going to cause me a lot of pain and there will be days where I feel like I can never smile or experience happiness again, I can find comfort in the fact that I can still achieve ultimate happiness. As long as I am living well and having a positive impact on the world around me, my soul will be in accordance with virtue. I think that at the end of the day social work is a good path for me to purse because even though I won’t have the easiest days, it will help me achieve happiness as an end.

Julie Delarosa 1st Period

  1. “Child Life Council : The Child Life Profession.” Child Life Council : The Child Life Profession. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2016
  2. “Home – School of Social Work – University of Texas.” School of Social Work University of Texas. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2016.
  3. “How Much Money Does a Child Life Specialist Make?” Work. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2016.
  4. “Aristotle.” Pursuit of Happiness. N.p., 25 Mar. 2010. Web. 05 May 2016.
  5. Aristotle, and W. D. Ross. The Nichomachean Ethics. London: Oxford UP, 1959. Print.
  6. Kraut, Richard. “Aristotle’s Ethics.” Stanford University. Stanford University, 01 May 2001. Web. 05 May 2016.
  7. Cahalan, Rose. “Through the Unthinkable.” N.p., 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 4 May 2016.
  8. “Aristotle on Happiness.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2016.

picture: “Bing.” University+of+texas. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2016.

One thought on “Finding Happiness Through Your College Major: Is it Possible?

  1. I really liked the points you made and can relate to them because I plan on studying nursing in college. I like when you said “I can’t say for sure whether or not my profession will make me happy until I have lived my entire life, so there is no sure way to know if I will be unhappy being a child life specialist.” I agree with this because I don’t think anyone can know in the long run if their profession will ultimately make them happy over all until they’re finished with their career and can look back and say whether or not they had a happy life. Also, similar with nursing, not every day is going to be a ray of sunshine where I can’t wait to tell my family about it. However, I’ll need to focus on my job overall and how there might be some hard days, but the work I will be doing will be for the benefit of others and to help others with their health. -Catherine Beachner

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