A youthful perspective on happiness in SLO

Happiness defined

San Luis Obispo has been deemed the “happiest city in America” by several sources. But after considering that every individual will have their own definition of the term, what does that actually mean?

After taking a further look into the matter, one thing becomes clear: The definition of happiness isn’t exactly easy to nail down, but the population of SLO embraces the term and even more so their relative claim to fame.

Just ask second-year biology major Chanel Barritt, who is more than happy to share her insights.

“Happiness comes with leading my life exactly the way I want to and becoming successful in what I love to do and surrounding myself with other beautiful, genuine, and exciting people,” Barritt said. “I don’t believe I have ever been happier in my life than I am right now.”

Barritt, far right, enjoying a hike up Bishop's Peak in SLO.

William Ramsey, a 23-year-old “SLOcal,” places a monetary value on happiness. “Five million dollars,” Ramsey said. “If I had that much money, I would be happy.”

Ramsey, who attended Robert Morris University in Chicago for two years where he earned his associates degree, describes his personal happiness philosophy in a simple manner.

“Living life without a physical care in the world – that’s what happiness is,” Ramsey said. “Everyone has their different view or ideal for happiness; mine includes freedom and expendability.”

Ramsey said there are several categories of things that make him happy. These include:

  • Ramsey’s silver BMW M3.
  • Receiving his paychecks.
  • Having fun with friends.
  • The knowledge that he can provide for himself.

Ramsey drives around SLO each day in his BMW, which he notes as a source of his happiness.

Additionally, Ramsey said SLO’s weather has a large impact on his happiness.

I’m happy living in SLO due to the weather,” Ramsey said. “Take today, for example: Its halfway through Octover and its like 95 degrees outside with zero humidity. This is paradise weather. Being so close to the beach and having such great natural resources and natural fun activities makes living here great.”

Barritt similarly describes SLO’s scenery as “beautiful,” and believes she is fortunate to live in the city. She cites the easygoing lifestyle of the community as a major source of happiness.

Cal Poly third-year environmental engineering major, Shelby Cowell, agrees that the city has much to offer.

I really like the downtown environment,” Cowell said. “It’s a very open community. I love attending farmers’ market on Thursday nights and getting to experience all the small-town activities. I also enjoy SLO’s weather. I’m from Bakersfield where it’s 110-115 degrees all throughout the summer, so after growing up experiencing that, I appreciate the cool summer temperatures.

Then versus now

Although Cowell is happy at this point in her life, she reminisces back to the days of running around the elementary school playground, which she declares was the happiest time of her life so far.

“Back then, things were easier,” Cowell said. “School wasn’t all about work; we did crafts and projects instead. There was no drama, and everyone just got along great. But that’s not to say I am not enjoying my life now, which includes being more independent.”

Cowell, an environmental engineering major, studies in the University Union during the discussion of happiness.

While for Cowell independence is accepted and embraced, Barritt feels less positively about her decision to move away from her loved ones.

My least favorite thing about SLO is that my family is not here,” Barritt said. “I use honesty, my morals, and my values to make level-headed decisions and often ask myself, ‘What would my dad do in this situation?’

I appreciate my great health and family, and I try to remind myself on the daily about how fortunate I am to have everything in life that I do.”

Sources of dissatisfaction

Of course, it isn’t all fun and games for residents of SLO county. Ramsey said he is thoroughly frustrated with the current local government situation and the number of inequal opportunities within the nation.

It would make me happy if we [SLO residents] could hire more responsible and down-to-earth people to be a part of our city’s administration,” Ramsey said. “Or if the economy turned up.”

Barritt said she sees other issues as major sources of unhappiness.

It makes me unhappy when my expectations are not met, and when I disappoint the people that are close to me,” Barritt said. “But learning and making progress on my life goals everyday makes up for it.”

Ultimately, SLO – like any city – has both its pros and cons. But by focusing on the positives, residents of SLO and other areas alike can boost and maintain true happiness.

Whenever you think back on a period of your life, there is always a happier or more pleasant time than the one you’re in,” Ramsey said. “Life is like a roller coaster, with birth at the beginning and death at the end of the circle. You have to roll with the roller coaster, go with it, and remember that no roller coaster is alike.”

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