By Luka Stojanovic:
I have reached that point in my life where every second question I hear is, “What are you doing after high school?” That question daunted me for quite a long time, but more recently I answer these questions with a confident demeanor by saying, “I am going to university to study philosophy.” Now the best way to describe people’s reactions to this response is by using an analogy. It is astoundingly similar to the face that a dog makes when you pretend to throw a ball far into the distance and then after running up a storm, the dog comes back to you in confusion asking where the ball went. The common follow up questions that I hear are “What are you going to do with a degree like that?” or “What do you expect to learn in philosophy?” These questions also scared me for some time, but now I think I have some answers. The value of studying any Arts and Humanities lies in the development of one’s critical thinking skills. This valuable skill is growing more important in a world where degree inflation is on the rise. In a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review, the writer sets out to understand what kinds of employees large and successful business are hiring. Amos Shapira, CEO of Cellcom, one of Israel’s leading cell phone providers, explained that “people trained in the humanities who study Shakespeare’s poetry, or Cezanne’s paintings, have learned to play with big concepts, and to apply new ways of thinking to difficult problems that can’t be analyzed in conventional ways.” This quotation perfectly describes the valuable skills that one can learn by studying any Arts or Humanities subject. A humanities degree in no way limits one’s potential for career opportunities, in fact, it can offer a unique advantage which can put you ahead of others competing for the same job.
Many high school students set incredibly high standards for their schoolwork. Striving to get 90s in every class or feeling the need to make every assignment their greatest masterpiece, can often serve as a motivator which drives them to work harder. Now, although there is a strong correlation between setting high goals and motivation, failing to meet these goals can be extremely damaging to one’s confidence as well as motivation. In retrospect, although it’s important to strive for one’s best, it is important to realize that perfection is unattainable; everyone is bound to make mistakes. Everyone will make mistakes on a test or assignment, but the important thing is to learn from those mistakes and move on.
For thousands of years, people have tried to understand happiness. It is an obscure concept, considered to be one of life’s most desired qualities, but unfortunately it is not easily attainable; it is the ultimate reward at the end of a long and difficult journey. I have come to understand that true happiness is often masked by ignorance, so I, like many before me, have embarked on a journey to discover what it truly means to be happy. About three weeks ago I was in philosophy class and we were discussing the question of identity. My teacher asked the class to think about what could be gained or lost from uncovering one’s true identity and after a lot of thought and a good class discussion, I began to draw connections between the idea of identity and happiness. Understanding your identity allows you to understand your place in the world. You come tounderstand what is valuable in your life and what you enjoy.
Understanding yourself and learning what makes you you is true happiness. Although uncovering your true identity can lead to a better sense selfunderstanding and ultimately happiness, many people who have discovered their true identity have been mortified with their own existence. The challenge is to accept yourself as you are; you are you and no one else. It is equally important to realize that you have the capacity to change your essence, to change your being. Life is not predetermined; you decide how you will live your life. I have accepted this journey because I know that it offers the possibility of truth and knowledge, but I recognize that it will neither be easy nor painless.