Back In My Day: You can’t Google the answer to prosperity

A cartoon of a bald man holding a briefcase with money flying around him.
(Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

Two years ago, I interviewed my favorite teacher for a short paper discussing what it meant to be prosperous for middle-aged adults who were in their early twenties or so when the digital revolution ushered itself in. She was my Latin teacher (Yeah, I took Latin. Big whoop.) and role model. She had spent all four years with me, progressing up among the faculty ranks and watching me justify forgetting to do homework due to my senioritis. In my last summer column before fall rolls around, I wanted to highlight a quick tidbit of advice she gave me about what it meant to be prosperous. 

“[Prosperity means] flourishing in whatever you’re doing. This might be your job or relationships and family,” she said. “I’m a teacher. I knew I wouldn’t be wealthy. I consider myself wealthy for the wonderful relationships I’ve had with my students and for being given a career that I love.”

Returning to the college campus after a year of staring at blank Zoom rooms, hating breakout rooms and hoping that someone hits you up on USC Missed Connections can feel overwhelming. The physical classroom and living settings are a whole different ball game. Thriving and feeling that prosperity can be a real challenge, especially for those who are stepping foot on campus for the first time in a city like Los Angeles.

Often, being at an academically rigorous institution with incredibly talented and accomplished people can also be taxing, so this last summer column goes out to the college students. We often are forced to wear masks that allow us to fit in with different groups, myself included. My attitude when talking to a group of accomplished pre-meds in a study group is the polar opposite to the side that I show my copy editors on shift — those guys are my favorites. Prosperity, in part, is being able to take off the mask and continue to be yourself while thriving in that space. Chasing validation and pursuing prosperity are both long-distance races, sure, but they more often than not run in different directions.

You are not necessarily always going to succeed in every space you are in per se and that’s more than OK. Also, remember that finding your true passions is one thing, but pursuing them can be a whole mess involving cultural, financial and personal troubles. That being said, I would like to believe that figuring out a way to include those passions into your life is not impossible. My Latin teacher loved working with technology but, as you would guess, taught Latin of all things. Yet, she made it work advocating for one-to-one programs within the Latin department that allowed students to help faculty with technology-related issues. Now, she’s kicking ass as a faculty director while also still being able to see students in the classroom. 

In that journey to find what you want to do, it can be easy to feel small, insignificant, as if you don’t belong or as if nobody cares about how you feel — like when people ask “what  you doin’” but never “how you doin’.” Making choices that allow you to be yourself and respecting your personal integrity can be hard at first, but nobody said that the journey to prosperity was inherently straightforward. So set realistic goals for yourself and realistic expectations on the relationships you make with others; never invest more than you can afford to lose. Prosperity also means being your whole self. It means knowing your limits and also what you want out of something. It means being mature and responsible for your actions too. Sometimes projects or ideas will not unravel as imagined; sometimes life plans can take a detour; sometimes relationships are not going to go the distance. That’s life, but it’s not the end of it.

So, when life has got you down and you are feeling at the bottom of the barrel, remember that prosperity is a long-term investment too. Making immediate lifestyle changes now is not going to guarantee that you will feel prosperous in a week or so. It’s the culmination of those changes throughout the course of your life that end up with that sweet, winning feeling. Love yourself first and foremost because loving others with a broken heart or spirit is just going to make you feel defeated when you’re not fulfilled. 

Live life doing what you want to do, and know that it’s never too late to make a change even when the world makes it feel wrong. Wealth and prosperity, according to my teacher, do not always come in material form but may surprisingly lead to material gain if you are able to love yourself and make strong, lasting relationships with those around you.

Lois Angelo is a rising junior writing about the timeless lessons learned from older adults. He is also co-chief copy editor of the Daily Trojan.