On Choosing Happiness

As I was walking downtown yesterday evening, I glanced down at an upside-down message written in chalk on the sidewalk. I rotated my view — “choose to be happy” it read. I assumed that this was a message in light of Robin William’s recent suicide, attempting to reach another struggling with happiness. 

Normally I find a lot of inspiration downtown; local street art and cryptic messages raise thoughtfulness and appreciation for the diverse community. Normally I snap a photo of these messages and share them with others. But this one bothered me. 

Choose to be happy. Simplistic and optimistic, but missing the point. The problem is not choosing to be happy, but rather being unable to choose. When happiness (or calmness, excitement, contentedness… however one prefers to exist) no longer feels like a choice, or even an option, telling someone to “choose to be happy” is insensitive and insulting. It is like telling someone on fire to stop burning. Suicide may appear as a choice, but who made this choice? Anxiety, depression, and addiction made the choice.   

Instead of choosing to be happy, choose to be proactive. Choose to be sensitive, choose to be aware, open, helpful, respectful, communicative and kind. If you are able to choose to be happy, please choose to be mindful of others who do not currently have the tools to make this choice. 

-S

On Hiccups

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.” -Edward Abbey

The beautiful thing about pain is that we all experience it. No one is immune from set backs. No one lives a life without some sort of fray in their rope. Not a single person wakes up everyday and goes through every motion according to plan. Thank God that’s the case.

When I look back on the most cherished things in my life, very few of them were intended. And NONE of them look exactly the way they did in my mind’s eye. My parents wanted to build a house in the country once they saved enough money. In the meantime, when my brother and I were young, they bought a too-small gray craftsman on 5th street where my mom still lives. Plans changed, circumstances changed, our family changed, and because the plans didn’t work out the way they thought they would, we have a home (and the world’s best porch swing) that I adore.

I never thought I would go to school in California, or work in D.C., or have a job right out of college that allows me to be close to my family and live in an amazing town. I never thought I would end up handing my heart to a goofy guy with shaggy hair who decided to chat me up because he heard about my political views. The best things in my life have been turn of the moment surprises that strayed from the things I thought I would have and planned for. And the process of finding all of these wonderful things was not free from set backs. Looking back, I think it’s easy to forget about the stress and the tears and the fear that brought me to all of those places.

Hiccups and set backs happen, but each of us has the ability to turn our bad days to good. It’s a process I’m still working on… slowly though, I hope I will be able to remind myself that all the work and stress and hiccups are worth it when I will inevitably come across something so much better than what I thought I was heading for.

At the risk of sounding like a fortune cookie… Just be you, feel everything, and treat each step (whether it hugs you or hurts you) like a necessary pixel in the big picture. And when you look back, try to remember that the pain you felt helped make the thing you are grateful for.

Take it cheesy. I mean easy… :)

-J

On Birkenstocks

Dear Mom, 

Remember that time I told you that your Birkenstocks were the ugliest shoes in the world and that I would never be caught dead in them? Well, I received your Nordstrom gift certificate for my upcoming birthday.

I bought myself some Birkenstocks. 

There is no shortage of ‘tough-love,’ wise, sometimes cynical but always true, advice in my family. I frequently look back on basic things my parents told me when I was younger, and recognize how great my parents actually are as people — separate from being parents, just good, cool, PEOPLE. I like to think I’ve always known this, but didn’t fully grasp how wise and down-to-earth they are until I had the life experience to place their words in context. 

When I was a teenager, my Mom told me that her favorite age so far had been 40. I remember thinking “Oh Lord, that is so far away. Why on earth would you enjoy being that old?” She said that once she was 40, she had her people, she had her family, and she didn’t care what anyone else thought. Not just the “I don’t care what people think of me,” lie we all tell, but she truly came to know herself, and had her priorities in line. 

"Everything is high school," is what my Dad said. "High school is high school. College is high school. Corporate life is high school. There will always be the cliques and the immaturity that goes along with it, but you focus on being a good person, treating others rights, and finding those few that you are fiercely loyal to."

Well, Mom and Dad, I can now honestly say… I look forward to being as old as you. I do not enjoy the fact that I can no longer eat breakfast burritos without heading to my metabolism, but I’m coming to terms with this. I do not like the fact that the magic ignorance about credit cards, medical insurance, and student loans no longer exists, but I’ll take the trade-off of financial independence and the excitement of eventually owning a home with my future family.

And Mom, I have a confession: I’ve always liked your Birkenstocks. I was just worried about what others would think of them when I was younger. 

If this is how (almost) 26 feels, you must be right about 40. 

~S

"Start ignoring people who threaten your joy.
Literally, ignore them.
Say nothing.
Don’t invite any parts of them into your space."
Alex Elle  (via natashakills)

On Revisiting

It’s no secret to many of those close to me that over a year ago I ended a long-term friendship that shaped a large part of my life for a long time. Things were bad, and I knew I needed to step away. Little did I know, stepping away from that situation resembled a step away from a big glob of sticky, gross bubble gum on a hot sidewalk- messy and really unpleasant.

I have been in love with someone wonderful for a couple months now. Someone so unimaginably ideal for me and completely unexpected. Life is GOOD. And yet, that big piece of bubble gum keeps finding it’s way to the bottom on my shoe. Learning to sever ties has been a hard thing for me to do. But, I want it so bad.

When you get your feelings hurt by someone it stays with you forever. That is, if you’re a mush ball like me. I bruise permanently it seems, and even the smallest reminder of the unfortunate what-used-to-be brings back waves of emotions. What I am learning now is that in order to truly move past pain, you have to force yourself to forget it, not repress it, but underline it and put it elsewhere. Bubblegum be gone, I have happiness to experience.

So, here’s the pledge I am making to myself:

1. I will treat my past experiences as mistakes made and lessons learned. I won’t revisit them in any other capacity than to learn from them and not make those same mistakes.

2. I will not harbor ill will toward anyone. Resentment and bitterness makes themselves at home if you don’t intentionally ward them off.

3. I will work through the things I have done in the past, and I will forgive myself and move on.

I have such a wonderful future ahead of me with a man who has no idea how lucky I am to have him- I will not miss another opportunity enjoy a moment with him because I am revisiting the past.

Today, I am grateful for the choices I made that brought me home, put me in the right place on NYE so I could meet my boyfriend. I’m grateful for bad horror movies and fish tacos, for decks and plates of alfredo, for Mass Street and Cosmo’s and coffee. THESE are the things I want to revisit.

And if I see that big glob of gum again, I’ll side step it and go about my day.

-J

 

On Butterflies

He doesn’t give me butterflies.

For most of our life, we are taught that the sensation of  these beautiful insects flying around our stomachs is a symptom of love. For the first time, I have met someone who doesn’t give me butterflies - and it is a wonderful thing.

For the first time, I didn’t wonder; I knew. I am never anxious; I am comfortable. I am not overthinking; I just am. Excitement is bountiful, but it is a confident, powerful excitement; it is stability and trust. Quietness is comfortable and peaceful joy is organic.

When you naturally house butterflies in your stomach at any given time, perhaps it’s the person who puts them to rest that you should be looking out for.

-S

smartgirlsattheparty:

You’re not being yourself if you’re not feeling.
732

On Jumping

Four days from now I will be plummeting down a snowy mountain. Plummeting is a generous term, but I will be learning to snowboard for the first time. I have visited the snow plenty of times and have an affinity toward mountains. Give me an over-sized sweater (preferably Native American inspired), some boots, a warm drink, a fire, and I am in pure bliss. My personal heaven will have endless log cabins. I am also quite sure that I belong in the Pacific Northwest, or that I was a fisherman in a past life, but Southern California suits me fine, for now. 

Here is the thing, though. I am nervous as hell. I don’t really want to snowboard. I am wondering where my bold sense of (reckless) adventure has gone. It lightened with the development of my frontal lobe, and with the constant need for responsibility that early adulthood has welcomed. As a child I was up to any challenge and craved life endlessly. My mother would find me hanging from window sills in the house at age two, rush me to the hospital with a concussion at age 4, a broken arm at age 5, and numerous adventures turned scares after that. I cliff-jumped into lakes as a teenager, raced four-wheelers through the dark desert air, and felt free. 

While responsibility and prudence is appropriate in life, I want to feel that freedom. It would be like laughing until you cry and instantly remembering how easy and often that happened when you were younger. I never remember how amazing it feels to laugh until your stomach hurts, until it happens; I’m suddenly reminded that when I usually smile, it’s only a fraction of true joy that I can feel.

For the first time, I do not have clear plans about what I am doing with my life after I graduate in May. I do not know where I will be working or living, I do not know what my romantic or personal life will look like. I like to think that this is my mature version of hanging from the window sills. I am exhilarated and amazed by this turning point that is approaching. 

Sure, maybe strapping myself to a board and sliding down a snowy mountain is scary and nerve-wracking, but I’m ready. Besides, everyone I talk to tells me that the ski-lift is the worst part.

I just have to jump. 

-S