How to be Happy at Latin

As we embark on our final weeks of senior year, just on the brink of graduating, a wave of nostalgia has hit. We are older and wiser now, having unique perspectives that have emerged from years of trial and error in our attempt to navigate Latin socially and academically. Looking back at our high school experiences, there were days, and sometimes weeks, at Latin where either one of us found it extremely difficult to be happy, and we’re not alone. Being happy at Latin can be one of the most difficult tasks that many students face, and with our shared wisdom, we decided to give our take on this puzzling phenomenon. Being happy seems so simple, but happiness isn’t just a blanket term or emotion—it’s a sensation. Happiness is satisfaction and contentment with life, and often times at Latin, that seems impossible to find. Some find happiness in good grades and academic achievement, some find it by having lots of friends, and some find it simply by being left alone. At Latin, each and every one of us is unique, but we each search for our own happiness in the same hallways, cafeteria, and classrooms. A study done by Christina Hinton found that happiness is predicted by students’ satisfaction with school culture and relationships with teachers and peers, and in such a small school, we can’t imagine how it couldn’t. We’ve all experienced times when nothing seems to be going our way. It’s so much easier to put in headphones and angrily blast music as we walk to class than it is to confront what is really happening. We get angry about bad grades on essays we spent days perfecting, rather than asking ourselves what am I going to do differently next time? It’s easier to think about what we did wrong when our friends disappoint us without stopping to question why we have chosen these people to be our friends. At Latin we know when something doesn’t make us happy, but it is human nature to indulge in self-pity. Being happy all the time shouldn’t be the goal. If anything, it is when we hit the bottom of our metaphorical holes that we learn the most about ourselves, but we can also find ourselves in the classrooms and in each other. True contentment, however students feel it, positively impacts all aspects of our lives. It affects our health, our physicality, and especially our performance in school. What if instead of telling students to “Sleep more!” and to “Not stress!”, we gave them suggestions to improve their mindsets and to find joy in their daily lives at Latin. We all know that despite the overwhelming evidence of the negative effects of too much stress and too little sleep, we’ll still stay up until 2:00 am cramming biology or reviewing historical figures because we’re Latin students. So let’s change how we talk about being successful in school. Let’s put it in terms of happiness. So how does one be happy at Latin? Here is what the class of 2016 had to say: “You have to capitalize off the moments you feel on top of the world, and never undermine your accomplishments or the accomplishments of others.” “Latin students act as if they are in a competition with each other, who can get the better grade, who get the better internship, who is liked more by a certain teacher, but the competition puts students into the wrong mindset and ends up creating an unhealthy atmosphere for all.” “Understand that everyone is focused on themselves, and doing things that you like and make you comfortable will create the best environment for you.” “You are who you are, and you weren’t born to become someone else. Don’t change who you are just because you are afraid of what others will think of you. Focus on making yourself happy and better.” “Laugh everyday but not at other people.” “Fear of missing out is real, so accept that things are happening without you, but don’t let your fear of missing out remove you from the present.” “Be aware of how your actions will make others feel.” “YOU WILL GET INTO COLLEGE.” “Don’t tolerate the assholes because no one tolerates them in the real world.” “Remind yourself of how isolated Latin is from the real world and the Chicago area and allow yourself to expand friendships to outside of Latin’s social structure and four small walls.” “Try not to get sucked into making decisions and choosing friends based on social status.” “Remember that it’s okay to be passionate in every sense of the word.” “Don’t forget about the people who have always been there for you.” “Remember that social dynamics last for four years, but real friends will be with you for years beyond.” “Remember that people don’t actually hold power.” After four years, we found that our peers’ greatest regrets came from forcing themselves into situations and sometimes friendships that created discomfort and misery. This self-inflicted unhappiness affected schoolwork, family life, self confidence, and genuine interest in hobbies and academics. One student noted that while the academics are hard, navigating Latin’s social scene is twice as hard. But why is that? Why do we make an already stressful four years worse for ourselves and each other?

What if we didn’t?

What if we chose to be accepting and non-judgmental? What if we pursued our interests ferociously, loved our friends unconditionally, and made each and every student feel comfortable? What if we made Latin exactly what it’s brochure advertises: a strong, tight-knit, loving community of brilliant and passionate students. So, Latin students, to those of you reading this article of our reflections as we embark on our final days at Latin, we hope you take these pearls of wisdom from us and our fellow seniors to heart. While Latin can be cutthroat and judgmental, it can also be inspiring, supportive, and loving, if you let it. To be a Latin Roman means to be a member of a community of artists, mathematicians, dancers, singers, runners, actors, and just about anything else imaginable. Latin students are as unique as they are brilliant, and every single one of us was chosen because someone believed we could succeed. If every day while walking through Latin’s cramped hallways we could recognize each other’s unique qualities and brilliance rather than social status or friend group, maybe it will become easier to accept and love ourselves for who we really are.  ]]>