Learning to Choose Happiness

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“SHE SAID, ‘I’M SO AFRAID.’ AND I SAID, ‘WHY?,’ AND SHE SAID, ‘BECAUSE I’M SO PROFOUNDLY HAPPY, DR. RASUL. HAPPINESS LIKE THIS IS FRIGHTENING.’ I ASKED HER WHY AND SHE SAID, ‘THEY ONLY LET YOU BE THIS HAPPY IF THEY’RE PREPARING TO TAKE SOMETHING FROM YOU.”

As a teenager, it seemed like I was always miserable. That isn’t at all unusual for that age, and I wonder how much of it was genuine and how much of it was a mixture of pubescent angst and my own naivety. Happiness always seemed to come in short-lived phases. For maybe a month, I’d be on cloud 9. And just like that, it was over. For a while, it seemed like I was happy and miserable for comparable amounts of time. Then the misery between happiness seemed to become prolonged. It seemed like I was happy for a month or so, then miserable for two months. Then three months. Then six.

As emotionally draining and confusing as college was, I can confidently say that I was much happier in college than I was in high school. But at the same time, it doesn’t seem like that’s saying a lot. From my social life to my love life to my goals as a student and person, college felt like one disappointment after the other. Nothing was going the way it was supposed to, and I became extremely depressed. It was an all time low.

Fast forward to the summer after senior year, and I’m quite literally the happiest I’ve ever been. But it’s different this time. Happiness isn’t a phase this time; it characterizes my day-to-day life. Of course, some days are better than others, and some days I still doubt myself and my potential, but happiness had become my rule, not my exception.

I had landed a new, amazing job and opportunity after opportunity was being presented to me. I lost a significant amount of weight and I had a crush on a guy and for once, it seemed like it could actually go somewhere. I had a plan for who I was becoming and the life I was building for myself. And before I could cross my Ts or dot my Is, everything came crashing down.

I live my life like there are 6 simultaneous group chats plotting my untimely demise, not because I’m that relevant, but because it keeps me sharp. Because of that, I won’t go into detail about the circumstances of my rough patch. Just know that I’m still employed by the same amazing company and still in decent health.

For some reason that I couldn’t articulate if you paid me to, I thought that I had finally arrived at a point in my life where things were falling into place. I thought that I had the job, the boy and the life of my dreams, and that it was only up from here. I was reminded that neither the good or bad are ever final.

Every day feels like a challenge lately, and all I can do is my best. In the midst of so much going right in my life, I forgot the unpredictable nature of life and that if you want to make God laugh, you tell Him you have a plan. Perhaps most importantly, I forgot that true happiness is a choice made every morning, and every moment thereafter. No matter what happens in the next chapter of my life, I will choose gratitude, I will choose confidence, and I will choose happiness.


“IN MY OWN WORST SEASONS I’VE COME BACK FROM THE COLORLESS WORLD OF DESPAIR BY FORCING MYSELF TO LOOK HARD, FOR A LONG TIME, AT A SINGLE GLORIOUS THING: A FLAME OF RED GERANIUM OUTSIDE MY BEDROOM WINDOW. AND THEN ANOTHER: MY DAUGHTER IN A YELLOW DRESS. AND ANOTHER: THE PERFECT OUTLINE OF A FULL, DARK SPHERE BEHIND THE CRESCENT MOON. UNTIL I LEARNED TO BE IN LOVE WITH MY LIFE AGAIN. LIKE A STROKE VICTIM RETRAINING NEW PARTS OF THE BRAIN TO GRASP LOST SKILLS, I HAVE TAUGHT MYSELF JOY, OVER AND OVER AGAIN.”

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