"Smile every chance you get. Not because life has been easy, perfect, or exactly as you had anticipated, but because you choose to be happy and grateful for all the good things you do have and all the problems you know you don't have".
You must live. Live every moment to its fullest. Live every new experience with the greatest enthusiasm. Live knowing that the connections you make with people are worth developing and that sharing life with others is what makes living so beautiful. Live every bite, live every text, live every class you attend, live every embrace, live every sob at the end of a movie. Just live and do it all while choosing to be happy.
But, choosing to be happy is not always easy, especially when you feel life keeps pushing you down. I have realized through years of both sad and happy times that there is not enough time in this world to be wasting it drowned in negativity. I realized not very long ago that I needed to stop living my life away worrying and pouting and grieving and complaining and feeling depressed. The people around me, particularly my family, did not want to be around me. I would come home from school and rehearsals exhausted, crabby, and pessimistic. Everyday I was choosing to look at all the negatives and I would complain and complain and complain. I would get angry at the drop of a hat and sad at the tiniest comment. Instead of waking up in the morning telling myself, "Today is a going to be a good day", I would wake up dreading what was ahead of me. This outlook on life got me nowhere. I was miserable.
Now grant it, this outlook did not stem from nothing. Lots of things were happening in my life that caused my spiral downward. After having a great freshman year, I went into my sophomore year enthusiastic and happy.
However, that enthusiasm and happiness soon turned bitter that October of 2010.
I experienced one of the most traumatic events of my life - the death of a boy named Dan. Now, the story is very long so I may tell it in detail in another post at a different time, but basically he was killed the day of homecoming in an ATV accident. I was supposed to be his date but I could not go because I had a feis (an Irish dance competition). So instead, one of my closest friend's went with him. The morning he died, I won my competition and I only needed one more win to move up to the highest level of Irish dance - Open Championships. It was one of the best days of my life until we found out that night that there was an accident before homecoming. When we discovered it was Dan, I immediately thought my friend was in the accident as well. She was and still is today one of my best and most dear friends. When we were told the details and how it was before she had arrived at the house for pictures, my heart immediately turned from worry about her to despair for Dan. The ATV had hit a tree and Dan was driving. He was killed. I cannot convey through words how I felt. I have tried before and nothing seems to suffice. All I can say is that I remember not being able to control myself - I was weeping and shaking and my heart was pounding and all I could think was how unfair the whole situation was.
That was the worst day of my life. His funeral comes a close second.
After his death, I went into a state of grieving. This state would not cease for two years. Death and heartache kept surrounding me.
Soon after, one of my most beloved teachers (my grade school librarian, family friend, and mother figure) died of bone cancer. She had struggle with cancer for years. I hate cancer.
After that, two different friend's of mine and my older brother dads died unexpectedly.
My grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer. She received a lumpectomy but never fully recovered. Several months later, she passed away.
Then a friend of my older brother killed himself. My older brother was a senior in high school and the captain of the crew team. Both Dan and the boy who killed himself, Joe, were on the team with my brother.
Another grade school teacher was diagnosed and died 3 months later of lung cancer - she had never smoked a day in her life.
The brother of my cousin's nanny was killed in a car accident that severed his body in half. And another high school boy that some of my friends were close with fell asleep at the wheel, crashed, and died.
I began dating my first boyfriend. He was a senior at the all boy's school while I was a sophomore at the all girls school. I felt so lucky and he was so cute and kind. I introduced him to a bunch of my friends at a football game after I had been dating him for about two weeks. He particularly hit it off with one of them. They laughed the whole night and I was so happy because my friends liked him and they were all getting along. However, as the weeks that turned into months went by, the two of them became oddly close. People started to talk. Eventually, after hearing story and story about how they were talking every day until the wee hours of the night and going to parties to meet up knowing I wouldn't be there, I asked my boyfriend what was going on. I was so afraid to because I did not want him to think I didn't want him to be friends with other girls or I was being paranoid. He ardently assured me they were just friends. I asked her and she denied all the rumors. This continued until I finally could not take it. It was clear something was happening and I felt like it was unfair to us both to stay in the relationship. I broke up with him and the next day they became official.
There are quite a lot more things that contributed to my sadness but I think you get the idea. It was hard to find happiness when I seemed surrounded by pain.
It wasn't until I went on a retreat at the end of my junior year when I decided I needed to have an attitude adjustment. Now that sounds quite childish, like a naughty three year old sassing back to her mother, but it was real. I needed to focus on how wonderful my life truly was. I spent a lot of time in self-reflection where I thought about the way I was living. I suppose I had what some would call an "epiphany". This epiphany told me that I didn't have to be who I had become. I was the one in control of my life and if I did not like who I was, then I alone had the capacity to change. The events that led up the that moment had only made me a stronger human being. I could choose the way I would feel and the way I would react.
I could choose my own happiness
And thus began my journey towards being happy. And for the past two years, I have never been happier.
I feel extremely blessed every day. Of course I have off days LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, but I now know that I can wake up in the morning and know that it is a fresh, brand new day that I can mold into whatever I want to mold it in to.
Even though it is not always easy, choosing to be happy will make your life so much better. It will bring you opportunities, experiences, adventures, relations, and feelings you never thought possible. Your own happiness is worth fighting for and at the end of the day, you are the only one who has control over you.
Something that always helps me when I feel my world is too much to handle is to remember that I am never alone. Even in my darkest hours I know that there are people out there who know what I am going through and there are also people out there who love me so much. I want to leave you with a few thoughts that I think help me stay positive and optimistic.
Know that you are never alone.
Know that you are so loved.
Know that life is what you make it.
Know that life has its ups and downs.
Know that things will get better.
Know that you have the capacity to change.
Know that you deserve the world.
And with knowing this, know that you can choose to be happy!