At the age of 18, I’m pretty sure I had declared “Life is full of choices, choose to be happy” as my personal mantra. While I still strongly agree with the sentiment behind the statement – to seek gratitude, to create joy, and to focus on everyday blessings – I’m glad I didn’t get the words inked on my body, declaring it my motto for life, as I’ve come to discover the honesty inherent in admitting to hardships that exist. Furthermore, it’s important to acknowledge that happiness in and of itself is not necessarily a destination, but rather an ever-developing journey.
With the rise in social media, blogs, and other online influences, this pressure to be “happy” seems to be even greater than ever. Friends are posting “100 happy days” on Facebook, shouting gratitude statuses to their thousands of followers, and you can’t scroll through Tumblr without finding at least a dozen “inspirational” quotes about happiness. But let’s be honest – no one really has 100 happy days in a row, and it’s okay to admit that. We should admit that more often.
The world is, in fact, full of experiences – both beautiful and terrible – and in response to our experiences, we face choices. Each day, we are granted the opportunity to embrace life rather than to resist it – to meet it. We are forced to compete with both its blessings and its adversities as they arise. For every birth and death, wedding and funeral, unexpected diagnosis and phone call in the middle of the night, we’re compelled to respond to life. The response should be active, and we should never apologize for feeling sad.
If the decision to always be happy is deemed right, then sadness somehow seems wrong. Yet by acknowledging and appreciating the full spectrum of human emotions – we come to know that on the other side of disappointment lies hope, and that even in the depths of grief, joy still exists. Each emotion has a place in the ultimate experience of being human.
After all, it’s not a sign of weakness to feel sad. You are not a failure if you cry. Go ahead and wallow, as Lorelai Gilmore would say. You are only asking for a level-five meltdown if you avoid those feelings for so long.
Perhaps the most courageous thing we can choose to do, is show up and continue to be all in, each day, knowing that beautiful and terrible things will happen. To feel heartbreak and still choose to love, to feel rejection and still choose to try, to feel pain and still choose kindness, to feel fear and still choose to fully live.