Recently I️ was posed with the question, “What do you believe in, and why do you believe it?” This turned out to be a deeply hard and complex question, because on the surface it would seem I️ believe a lot of things. I️ believe in education, I️ believe in love, I️ believe you can’t beat a North Carolina sunset, I️ believe in giving back, I️ believe your toenails should always be painted, I️ believe laughter is the shortest distance between two people, I️ believe travel opens eyes, minds and hearts, I️ believe in friendship, and the list could go on. But to find a singular answer I️ had to dig beneath all of those things. Why do all of those things matter to me?
And I️ came to the conclusion that I️ believe in the pursuit of joy.
Not happiness. Happiness carries with it the weight of a larger consistency. A more general, life-long euphoria that we are constantly working and striving for. But I️ don’t want an “unreachable”. And besides, I️ think it’s okay to not be okay all the time. So, what I️ really believe in is the pursuit of smaller moments of gratitude, thankfulness, excitement, adventure and love we find in the everyday, that do, I️ think, lead to a greater well-being and happiness in the end.
When I️ think about my biggest fear in life, it’s that one day I’ll reach my last day and I’ll look back and be disappointed in the life I️ led. I️ need to be able to remember my life with pride, joy and a sense of fulfillment. Now, I️ don’t know if I’m unique in this, or if all twenty-somethings are kept awake at night pondering their own mortality, but when you lose someone close to you at a young age like I️ did, mortality doesn’t seem like such an abstract concept.
When I️ was 12 years old my father passed away from cancer. I️ hate that phrase, “passed away”. Like it was some calm, soft, drifting into a warm light. My father was taken from me. He fought a tremendous battle and he lost. And when you see the strongest man you ever knew – your own personal super man – cold and stiff in a hospital bed, life doesn’t ever really look quite the same.
Before he died, when he knew the end was near, he looked me in the eye and he told me that it was okay. It was okay that he was going to die. He said he had lived a full and happy life with no regrets. He wouldn’t change a thing. And when he was gone on Feb. 2, 2011, I️ felt this need to live in his legacy, to honor his memory and to continue a tradition of seeking joy.
So now I️ sit in a tumultuous period of my life where anything could happen and nothing seems certain. All my life was a build up to this college thing – getting the best grades, doing all the extracurriculars, putting in the work – and now that I’ve made it here, what’s next? What if I️ don’t live up to the legacy? What if I️ let people down? But in all my time worrying about being perfect and right and successful, I️ forgot to live with joy and to be thankful for everything I’ve gotten to experience, learn and accomplish up until this point.
I️ forgot these fundamental lessons from my childhood.
My dad use to compare the world to a playground, and he would tell me that it was my playground to explore. With age I’ve realized that if the world is our playground, then that means to effectively maneuver it, we must hold on to the child within us.
This is something that has become particularly hard for me as I️ have become more and more consumed in the “millennial mindset”. Feeling like I️ need to be “busy” all the time. The idea that if I’m not doing something productive 24/7, then I’m doing something wrong. But really, the more I️’ve given into that stress, the less productive I️ have been. So, I️ have to stop and remind myself that the world – in all its daily stress and routine – can still be my playground if I️ can approach it with 3 joys in mind: fun, learning and love.
First, The world is fun. Never stop having fun. As we age, sometimes we forget the little joys in life. Bubbles. A flower in the sidewalk. A new friend. We are too quick to complain and too slow to enjoy. The world is meant to be danced through with the exultation of a child. Stop and smell the roses as they say. Watch a North Carolina sunset. Go sailing. Eat another croissant. Take a night to do nothing but face-masks and ice cream on the couch with your girls.
Second, never stop learning. Never stop exploring. Never lose your curiosity and your sense of wonder. We all still have so much more to understand and discover. Learn with a voracious appetite. The world is waiting to be seen, felt, tasted, heard… Strive for the curiosity of a child. Knowledge is fatal to narrow-mindedness, idleness, and ego. I truly believe knowledge is power.
Finally, never stop loving. Share your love with the world. Like a child, who loves openly and generously. Perhaps to open your heart and bear it on your sleeve is naive, but to live without love, isn’t really living at all. Love passionately. Relationships between friends and family and those closest to you are what make the journey worth taking. Travel with love to give. Love like child who has never been hurt. You might get hurt, but remember that it hurt because it mattered. Pick yourself up and love again.
So as I️ continue to mold this idea of what I️ believe in and why – an idea that I’m sure will continue to change with time and age – I️ need to think about what tools and choices will aid me in my pursuit of joy. They say the happiest people find a way to marry their personal passions and their professional careers.
This is why I️ am pursuing a degree in Media and Journalism – or storytelling.
I️ feel the most joy when I️ am out experiencing new things and sharing those stories with someone else. I️ want to be the storyteller for an organization that I️ believe in. For me, curiosity, discovery and adventure are what make life worth living. And more than that, sharing those experiences with the people I️ care about. To work with a brand that shares those passions and passes them on to others through communication, social media, marketing etc. would be the dream. I️ have posted quality content, made exciting videos and informed though storytelling, all in my personal life without realizing those skills could be translated to a brand. I️ want to share authentic, creative and informative content about our shared passions, because life is fun – even the things that may not immediately appear so – and people should know about it.
And of course, all of this is prefaced by the fact that I️ don’t really know who I️ am yet or what my life will be. These are the musings of a twenty-something who will change and grow as she continues to experience and dig a little deeper into this life. Maybe I️ wear rose-colored glasses but maybe that’s okay. For now I’m just taking it one day at a time. Remembering to keep my dreams as the blueprint for the person I️ want to become, doing the things I️ want to do. And in the end, if I️ can find the joy in each day, then I️ will be able to look back with pride and fulfillment in the life I️ led and leave this world with a smile.