Wellness is the “Opposite of Loneliness”

I was moved by Marina Keegan’s amazing final essay at Yale. Tragically she was killed in a car crash a week after graduating, she was 22. She created the essay below for a special edition of the Yale Daily News edition that was distributed at the class of 2012’s commencement.

I inspired because I realized this is what our world should be and what we all want. It is like how I feel when I attend the National Wellness Conference every year. This means making the world a place where we become the best versions of ourselves.

As she shares, it is not about just being comfortable but about progress, as shared in a previous essay, Is Wellness Progress?  My push is that we all need to enlarge our circle include all living things in creating progress so we generate improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits. Enjoy…

Marina’s essay

Screen-Shot-2014-04-07-at-2.48.26-AM

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.

Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.

This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse — I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.

But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves…” “if I’d…” “wish I’d…”

Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.

But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.

We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.

When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.

For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.

In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I arrived at the door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in Yale’s administrative building. Of course, they weren’t. But it was cold and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.

We’re in this together. Let’s make something happen to this world.

Hard to say it better than that. Lets work together for progress by generating comprehensive improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.

 –
Advertisements

Experiencing Wellness = Progress Toward Desired

wellness_istock_000002888280small-preview

For as long as I have been in the field, since the late 80’s, there has been debate about what wellness is and how it should be defined and described.

When I first learned about wellness, like health, it was described as a process of making better choices to create a life of optimal health. However, upon reflection, a process was not very exciting, desirable or motivating to most. After all, does it mean if you have wellness you have a process? Most of us are more interested in what that means to us and others. In other words most of us think about what a process produces or provides.

In getting my PhD, my professor challenged my thinking and changed my understanding of wellness from a process to a product. He explained to me that because wellness is a         -ness word, it means it is a state of being. With that understanding I went on to categorize illness as a state of negative health and wellness as a state of positive health.

The state of being status however seemed limiting because of the relative dynamic state of life and well-being. Around this time, 2006, Lester Breslow, one of the fathers of public health, published an influential commentary, Health Measurement in the Third Era of Health. In this article he explains that, “…health must be clearly differentiated from health status, because health  has a dynamic potential for increasing or at least maintaining whatever health status is in place…” Taking this information I inferred then that wellness must be Positive Health Potential and Illness as Negative Health Potential.”

When I described wellness as a potential, I analogize it by explaining how a wedding provides the potential of having a life partner, a degree creates the potential of having a career, and health creates the potential of having a desired life. Health after all is a resource for life. I then explain to have the life desired, a fulfilling career or a desired life partner, effort is needed to make it happen. This again left me wondering. W hat do we achieve by having wellness or health? Is it just a possibility and would those possibilities be motivating?

Through my history I have moved from seeing positive health or wellness as a process, to being a product or state, to then being a potential. Although I have liked thinking of health and wellness as positive potential, I have had some reservations about its ability to motivate or to feel pride and accomplishment for its achievement. In my recent review of a dissertation, I came to a new realization about wellness and what it is.

The National Wellness Institute defines wellness as:  

an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.

The World Health Organization defines wellness as:

the optimal state of health of individuals and groups. There are two focal concerns: the realization of the fullest potential of an individual physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically, and the fulfillment of one’s role expectations in the family, community, place of worship, workplace and other settings (Smith 2006)

These organizations describe it as all – the process, the product, and potential. To me these definitions make wellness ambiguous and difficult to understand, conceptualize, and or quantify. By reviewing all this, I had come to realize that really when I experience wellness and what it has always been and what motivates people to work to achieve wellness is PROGRESS. It is when we do things that help us move toward where or who we want to be that enables us to experience the positive, relative, dynamic state of wellness.

My recommendation for wellness suggests we should describe, define and view wellness as PROGRESS. If wellness is progress, then all health promotion and wellness efforts would be focused on creating processes, programs and efforts to enable and create PROGRESS.

Please let me know you thoughts about wellness as progress and how we can continue to improve toward creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.
I look forward to hearing about how you use pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions to generate All Good so everything and everything benefits!

Thank you.
Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

 

%d bloggers like this: