“In that very moment, I realized what makes me happy. Being there, committing my time to such an amazing soul, and changing my community; that is what makes me happy.”
My whole life I thought I knew how to be happy. When I was a child, my Dad always told me ,“ If you make lots of money you’ll be happy”. My Mom always told me, ”If you fall in love you’ll be happy.” My brother always told me, “If you travel the world you’ll be happy.” I never quite knew what to believe, but as time passed I started to notice that hundreds of my peers consistently told me “If you make money you’ll be happy.”
Soon, it was my life’s mission to be rich. I wanted to drive a car that cost as much as most people’s homes, I wanted to live in a mansion that was as big as the white house, and most importantly, I wanted my riches to lead me to happiness. Since one of the most important men in my life said it, it much be true. Right?
While curiously walking the halls of my school, my eyes wandered to a poster that read, “Do you like working outside, being a leader, and helping others?” I had never read a sentence that had described who I was so perfectly. The next day I found myself in an informational meeting for a non-profit called Colorado Young Leaders (CYL). I never knew how much this one hour would change trajectory of my life and help me redefine my definition of happiness. CYL is an organization that partners with Colorado nonprofits to coordinate young people with volunteer opportunities throughout the state. I have worked with CYL since that meeting. In that time, I have volunteered over 1,000 hours; therefore allowing me to gain insight and experiences that have lead me to be elected as President of Colorado Young Leaders.
Throughout all of my amazing experiences with CYL from volunteering at bike races with impaired veterans, to going rock climbing with blind men, there is one experience that I can say truly altered my idea of happiness. This past year, I took the time to become a certified snowboard instructor for disabled men and women. After my 32 hour training, I finally got to meet the person who was going to change my outlook on life forever. Brenna is 27 years old, and is one of the most inspiring and extraordinary people I have ever met. Brenna has been diagnosed with a developmental delay and Cerebral Palsy. But none of those things stop her from persistently emanating her buoyant moral. After a long day of drawing diagrams in the snow, talking about form, and falling a good amount, Brenna told me something I will never forget.
I started to tell Brenna: “Many people I know spend a lot of time complaining about pointless things. People get upset over the fact that there Snapchat app won’t work, or that there Starbucks barista made there drink wrong. And you are here snowboarding like an Olympian when all odds are against you.” She then replied saying: “Stevie, you are pretty amazing. I hope we can snowboard together forever, because you just make me so happy.”
In that very moment, I realized what makes me happy. Being there, committing my time to such an amazing soul, and changing my community; that is what makes me happy.