In the hustle and bustle of college life, it is easy to forget the simple things that bring us joy. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I spend a disturbingly large amount of my time doing homework, sending out job applications, networking, and scholarship searching. All of these things are incredibly important to my future and long-term goals, but they don’t necessarily bring me any immediate joy or happiness. When I get a good grade on an assignment or receive positive feedback in a professional sense, it is definitely rewarding. However, that sensation of reward never elicits the same visceral response that genuine joy does. I’ve come to realize that productivity doesn’t always equate to happiness.
So what brings me genuine joy? At my home university, it could be that moment when I’ve finally finished my last class on a Friday, so I order Thai food and watch Netflix until I fall asleep- not worrying about the next assessment for at least a day. Sometimes, it can be that brief twenty-minute break between classes when I sip coffee and zone out to whatever song I’ve been bumping that week. Perhaps, joy comes when I get off my shift at the post office, no longer needing to log another incoming package. As I’ve been reflecting on my conceptualization of joy, I realize that all the things that seem bring me joy revolve around work and productivity. I recognize that joy has come to signify a break from the onslaught of work in my day-to-day routine. It is becoming quickly apparent that this type of “joy” is unhealthy, unmanageable, and unsustainable.
Since I’ve been in Tokyo, I’ve been actively trying to take more breaks from my work and re-discover things that bring me joy that aren’t tied to productivity. I’ve been recalling the things that I used to do as a child and trying them out again in Tokyo. I’ve started running again…not for time or to a specific location…just running. Feeling the cold air on my face as I explore my new neighborhood, with no sense of direction, has been incredibly refreshing. Nothing beats endorphins. Yesterday, despite having a large amount of homework to do, my friend Dana and I went on a nighttime bike ride. During our little excursion, we raced each other, got incredibly lost, and stopped at a little playground to go on the jungle gym and push each other on the swings. Now, I realize this behavior might seem odd coming from a twenty-one year old university student, but I would argue that I was putting my happiness first for once. I was getting back to the essence of joy that has escaped me for so long.
There are so many aspects of Tokyo that are conducive to getting in touch with one’s youthful side. Whether it be spending hours in an arcade in Akihabara, playing with seals at the Sunshine City Aquarium, or just biking with your friend down quaint little roads, the possibilities are endless.