What’s In A Year

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It is officially my one year blogiversary. I was looking back at my earliest posts and I definitely started out with a lot of energy and excitement and was able to punch out a good number of posts each week.

The thing is, I was in a really good (happy?) place when I chose to start blogging. I had spent a whole summer with someone who I thought was a good friend as well as dating someone who made me feel very comfortable and easy with myself. By the time October rolled around, I had been discussing starting this blog for months and that guy kept encouraging me to do it every time we spoke.

I think it has taken me almost an entire year to get over him. I don’t really know how to address how ridiculous it seems considering we were never in a committed relationship. But now I am able to look back without feeling excruciating pain. I do think that in some way he was the reason I started blogging. I had always wanted to write but regular blogging wasn’t something I had considered. He pushed me to do it. And I am grateful for that.

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It was good. I was going to therapy and this guy was telling me that I should definitely do this great thing. And I did. I dove right in. But not long after I started, he disappeared from my life. And I fell into a terrible depression that just continued to get worse as I also lost a “friend” a few months after losing him. Basically, the two people I spent the most time with and felt closest to vanished from my life, after stabbing me in the heart and crushing my soul. There were some other things going on as well that just contributed to a major decline in my health physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I am glad to say that I am starting to do better. Not feeling excruciating pain every single day makes it a little easier to look forward. Honestly, when you are in the midst of depression, looking forward isn’t even an option. It’s like your brain won’t allow you to look forward. At random times I still get hit with the feelings of my friend dumping me, which happened more recently than the guy thing. But I am finding better relationships with my family and that makes all the difference.

I tend to feel extremely guilty about not posting as often as I used to. But working 50 hours a week as well as taking graduate classes leaves me a little overworked and mentally drained at the end of every day. I love my work and school and those both have to come before my blogging. But I am hoping to get myself a bit more organized and on a more consistent schedule with blogging and everything else.

Reflecting on your life is a funny thing sometimes. When I reflect on my childhood, I almost feel as if I didn’t live that life. But I am reminded often with the things I constantly struggle with that, yes indeed, I did live that life. Over the past few months especially, I have watched myself change quite a bit. It may not be in any way that anyone will notice outwardly, but I can feel it. I am in a very different mental space now and I think I’m really liking it.

As I approach 30 very soon, I am beginning to care less and less about what people think or what they might say about my changing political/social opinions, the way I dress, who I choose to spend time with, whether or not my job is “real”, and even speaking out about things that I care about, especially when those things tend to go against the grain.

To be perfectly honest, I have never really been a go-along-with-the-crowd kind of person. Maybe no one ever knew because I was the silent one, but inside I’ve always pushed against doing the popular thing, whether that be in fundamentalist christian culture or in the culture I live in now. My mother did always used to say how stubborn I was. Silently stubborn, I suppose. Or maybe I became silent because I had to.

I do know that I don’t like to post the same exact kind of pictures that 5 billion other girls are posting on instagram. And I don’t like to post memes on my facebook wall about “choosing happiness” or ranting and railing about ridiculous things with nothing to back up the argument.

I like to spend a lot of time researching things out. And I like to spend a lot of time thinking about things before I speak or write about them. It may make me a bit eccentric, but I often have a lot of things I want to write about but then I tend to pull back because I want to think about it more first. And that sometimes ends up leaving me in a loop of not posting something for weeks.

I am also becoming more bold though in speaking up about things that bother me on social media and engaging in civil conversations, which is unfortunately a rare thing. Civility and kindness don’t seem to be much of a concern for a lot of people when they start talking on the internet. I suppose hiding behind a screen makes it a lot easier to be nasty.

Social media has a lot of power. And I like that but also hate it. People use it as a weapon to be especially hateful. I can’t imagine a lot of the things I read would ever be said to someone’s face. Words on a screen seem less confrontational or harsh then someone standing right in front of you saying the same things. But that is the world we live in.

I’m trying to use it in a different way. I’m trying to just be myself. So no, I do not have a perfectly curated instagram feed that hundreds of people want to see everyday. But I find a lot of joy in what I do post because it is my real life. My job, my home, my family, the things that I care about the most just as they are, not staged, not perfectly presented, and certainly not always beautiful in comparison to a lot of other instagram feeds, but they are beautiful to me.

And that’s why I will continue with this blog as well. Because it is beautiful to me. However clumsy or confusing or ridiculous some post might end up being, I write because it’s beautiful to me. My crazy, weird, not-like-everyone-else life is beautiful to me. And that is everything right there. That I can say that now, that my life is beautiful to me, that is what has changed in a year.

can we stop with the meaningless platitudes

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I’ve talked about the idea of happiness and what it means to people many times. It’s just something that I think about a lot these days as it is thrown in my face every time I log in to social media. “You must be happy or you’re not a good person and no one will want you

I get very frustrated when I see a lot of social media posts with sayings such as “choose happy” and “positive vibes only” and other such epithets. The problem I have with seeing these all the time is that they seem incredibly naive and frankly insensitive. You can say “choose happy” all you want, but if I’m curled up in a ball under my covers dreading having to live another day, those words mean zip, zilch, nada, nothing. And while I hate to talk a lot about the crippling depression, I don’t want to hear from someone who has never had depression about how they wake up every day and “choose to see the positive,” as if that is some sort of magical cure all.

I don’t consider myself to be a pessimist, more a realist. But I greatly struggle with the idea of being perpetually optimistic. It seems so strange to me that someone could actually be consistently optimistic every single day of their life. What about the hardships? Everyone has hardships in their life. We are not all an island to ourselves. The commonality of the human experience is that we all endure sadness, and pain, and grief, and outrage. So to pretend that “thinking positive” is somehow going to solve your problems seems childish.

I would argue that often the things that bring about the greatest change are a result of thinking about things that are not so positive. You cannot just ignore negativity. I mean, I suppose you can ignore it, but that makes you a very one-dimensional, intentionally ignorant, and probably emotionally suppressed individual who can’t really relate to people in need.

Take the refugee crisis for instnace. I’ve been reading all these HONY stories about the refugees and it is utterly heartbreaking. I’m sorry but “positive vibes only” isn’t going to help people who are literally drowning just for the chance to get away from their violent oppressors.

I would much rather develop and grow and be a person of compassion, empathy, courage, integrity, and action than be known as someone who is always smiling or always happy. I don’t want to be “the happy girl.” In fact, it may sound strange, but I am beginning to actually find happiness in the fact that my life experience has allowed me to grow and change so much so that I believe I am much more compassionate and empathetic. I desperately want to help people, especially children. And I can’t take seriously someone who ignores atrocities and thinks that happiness is going to make everyone and everything ok.

I think that fundamentalism is entrenched with the idea that you have to always be joyful. I mean, if you have God what could you possibly have to be sad or angry about, right!? There are numerous Christian books aimed at convincing you that if you have God you should and must be happy. But even outside of fundamentalism, in mainstream culture, I think there is also an unspoken assumption that we all (especially girls and women) must pursue the ultimate ideal personification of happiness, whatever that is.

The smiling, giddy, laughing girl that everyone wants to be around. No guy wants a girl who isn’t happy. No one wants to hang around a girl who isn’t happy. If you’re not always smiling and proclaiming to the world your happiness then you aren’t worthy of healthy relationships. This is the message I get when people, and especially friends, only respond to your hardships or difficulties or darkness with “look for the silver lining.”

But really, healthy relationships are not about perpetual happiness and optimism. The world is not all sunshine, and flowers, and rainbows, and unicorns, and glitter. It is full of heartbreak, and devastation, and violence, and racism and I just can’t anymore. “Positive vibes only” is almost insulting when you consider all of the suffering, and misogyny, and war, and hardships that people deal with all over the world. I don’t know if this obsession with positivity and optimism and happiness is just an American thing or if it is more widespread but it just seems ridiculous when there is so much you could be doing to make the world a better place. Action is far more powerful and effective than words spoken out of habit.

However good it may sound to say “today I choose happiness,” they are still just words on a page (or a screen). Words that sound good are not enough. And often I find that when people post these types of sayings, it is rarely ever followed up with action.

Listen, I want happiness in my life too. Everyone does. But the reality is I have been feeling more happiness in my life recently because I choose to grow not because I choose to be happy. Who I am becoming is bringing me happiness. And it has absolutely nothing at all to do with waking up every morning and telling myself “I’m going to be happy today.” I don’t do that. The fact that my heart and soul have been utterly crushed by two people who I thought truly cared about me within the past year has only allowed me to be even more compassionate and understanding of people everywhere.

I have lived with profound loneliness for years, even when I was in a relationship. And I have to tell you that it makes my eyes water and my heart break even more when I see someone else enduring the same thing. I don’t tell them to “choose happy.” Those words don’t heal a broken heart or repair relationships or cure loneliness. They very often just create more guilt for the person who is going through some darkness and can’t pull themselves out on their own. You’ve already been kicked to the curb and someone comes along and tells you that you just have to choose to be happy and it will all be better. And now, not only do you have to deal with whatever awful nastiness may be happening in your life, you also have to feel guilty for not being happy.

At work everyday, I see a 2 year old experiencing a whole host of emotions in a matter of seconds. And it reminds me that we cannot tell people how to feel. I think it is a huge mistake to explicitly or implicitly tell a child that happiness is the ideal. That they should always want to be happy. That controlling their emotions is vitally important so that no one has to feel uncomfortable around them. That in order to make someone else feel better, you must put on a smile and prove that you are happy. “Come on honey, put on a smile, we don’t want daddy to come home and see you sad or upset, do we?” That is a terrible thing to do to a child. And children become adults. And adults who have been taught this go about living their lives thinking that if they aren’t happy enough then something is seriously wrong and they need to get it together.

Let’s stop doing this. Let’s stop teaching this.