Eudaimonia

To have a strong, loving relationship with ourselves, we have to be honest. We have to call ourselves out on our own bad habits and be truthful about what it is we actually desire. In an interview I conducted with Dr. Michael Rings, a philosopher at Pacific Lutheran University, he discussed this concept of self-acknowledgement. 

“Self-acknowledgement is about facing facts of who you are and what you are committed to,” says Dr. Rings. We have to discover truths that already exist within us through honesty. Once we embark on this process, he says, we have to stick to our values to remain as authentic as we can. If one lacks this sense of self-authenticity, it will subsequently affect their relationships. Dr. Rings also says that “[i]f being authentic is about flourishing as the person you are, if you’re not fulfilled, you’re not going to have happy relationships with people nor will you have a good relationship with yourself.” This was true for me. I was not being my most authentic self for a while, and it affected my relationships with everyone and everything.  I was not being honest with people about my intentions which confused them. Like Dr. Rings said, how could I have happy relationships if my perceived self is not my authentic self? And how could I possibly have healthy relationships with others if I was not taking care of the most important one: my relationship with myself?

Dr. Rings eloquently explained that we must acknowledge these shortcomings within ourselves so that we can “negotiate a new way to be better.” I was unaware of my flaws for quite some time. I played the victim and sometimes became defensive when others called me out. The night that boy told me our demise was my fault as well, I realized I had to start calling myself out, too. I cannot grow if I am not self aware. Dr. Rings also brought up the concept of being honest and acknowledging with one’s self when things don’t work. This is something I did not do for a while. I knew things wouldn’t work with that boy. I knew we had similar upbringings yet we existed in two different worlds; our desires did not line up. And I knew we were avoiding the truth of our inevitable end, yet I continued to lie to myself until we exploded.

Dr. Rings brought the philosophical concept of first and second order desires. First order desire is a desire for anything other than a desire, and a second order desire is a desire for a desire. Dr. Ring’s used an example of an addict. The addicts first order desire is to have whatever drug she has become addicted to. Her second order desire is that she doesn’t want to want the drugs. Her first order desire does not line up with her second order desire. This happened to me for a long time, but I denied it. My desire to be with someone did not line up with my second order desire to be independent. I did want to want what I desired. But, like Dr. Rings said, desires are like the weather. They can change. 

 Once we learn to embrace this form of self-acknowledgement and authenticity, we can begin our path to self-eudaimonia, a term Dr. Rings brought up on several occasions. Eudaimonia is a Greek word that has several translations, but the two most common are “human flourishing” or “prosperity.” Dr. Rings began referring to it as “the good life” which is the definition that stuck with me the most. At the end of the day, everything we do should be for us to strive toward living the good life. Dr. Rings also discussed the idea of living a life that you value and feel suited for, you given who you are. For many years I denied my passion, I knew writing was what my heart desired but I had been raised with the mindset that I had to aspire for something greater. I had to make money and claw my way out of poverty. Everyone used to tell my dad that he could have been a chef. He was honestly the best cook I knew, and he had a deep passion for food. But because this is America, because Spanish was his first language, because he had a stutter and barely had a high school degree; he did not pursue it. His top priority was keeping us fed and the way he did that was through arduous work he despised. Consequently, he became stingy about spending. My dad always talked about needing to save for the future… a future he did not live long enough to see. I learned my lesson and now I’m writing a book and attending NYU to pursue this passion. I am doing what I wholeheartedly enjoy and I feel myself flourishing.

I still have flaws and sometimes I fall back into old habits. It’s difficult to be self-aware all the time, but I am avidly trying now. I bounce back much quicker than I used to and I carve time out in my schedule to do activities for myself. For example, I always make time to sit in Washington Square Park for an hour and do absolutely nothing besides take in the sun’s rays and the view of the famous fountain and the sound of children’s laughter and struggling bands performing. It clears my mind. We always make time to hang out with other people, so why don’t we make time to hang out with ourselves? Since my mindset has shifted, I have experienced drastic self-improvement in the past year. I am trying to be better because I believe we all have room for growth. I want to be my best self and I know now that I am the only one capable of making that happen.

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By Jaelynn Grace Ortiz

Jaelynn is a rising sophomore at NYU majoring in Journalism and Social and Cultural Analysis with a focus in Latino studies and is minoring in Creative Writing. The list of her hobbies is almost as drawn out as her majors are. She writes poetry, essays and stories, she dances, mentors high schoolers in the Bronx and often plans environmental events in NYU Residence Halls. She has a poem published in the introspective study Inside My World by the Live Poets Society. Despite vehemently condemning social media, she ironically has instagram which you could follow her on. 

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