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.