Until yesterday, there was a part of me that felt guilty for having so much joy. I had an amazing childhood, have parents who are still in love and have shown me what a healthy relationship is, a younger brother who’s genuinely my best friend, have wonderful friends I can tell anything to and a boyfriend who adores me. I am pretty healthy (barely even need glasses!) and have stable income. I have never had depression or crippling anxiety or suffered from abuse.
Pause. I already know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I should stop because I’m going to “jinx” myself. Well, I’ve stopped believing in that and you’ll see why as you keep reading.
I’ve always known what my passions and interests were. I’ve never been bullied or struggled with my sexual identity. I went to my first-choice college and have never thought about money in a serious way until I graduated. I grew up going on fun vacations around the world and have a good head on my shoulders. I’ve never experienced hunger or poverty or lack of shelter. That’s not to say I haven’t experienced the usual tough things like heartbreak, grief, and confusion. I have. However, I know I am endlessly blessed and so grateful.
Until yesterday, I felt guilty having all this joy. Guilty for only being able to say to struggling people, “I don’t understand what you’re going through, but I’m here for you.” Guilty that I didn’t have a traumatic story to offer up when someone told me theirs. Guilty that I can’t relate and share their pain, but still trying to console the best I can. This guilt would move me to tears at times and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
Growing up, people frequently told me with a tinge of annoyance in their voice that my life was “perfect.” People probably still think this and don’t say it aloud. I was never naive as to why people said this, but it still bothered me because I wasn’t doing anything purposeful to cast myself as superior. I was just living my life. Just like him or her or you, I didn’t have control over the life I was born into. I’m certain there were times as a child when I over dramatized any stories I could to seem more “normal.”
I’m about to share an intimate tidbit with you – there were times when I thought huge success couldn’t be in my future because I didn’t have a traumatic enough story. Magazine covers these days say, “From Rags to CEO” or “How this dynamo overcame homelessness and now is a business owner.” You get the point. What would mine say, “Happy girl changing the world?” That’s boring and annoying. How could she possibly do any significant good if she’s never experienced the lowest lows?
The guilt came to a head yesterday while listening to a favorite podcast of mine by Rachel Brathen called “From the Heart: Conversations with Yoga Girl.” It was an episode about how she’s worked through intense physical and emotion pain in her life. I was gazing out the bus window, slightly teary-eyed, thinking that I could never have a podcast because no one would take me seriously. I went home and explained all of this to my boyfriend, Marvin, and he listened attentively.
When I was done, he said a lot wise things but three that stuck the most. First, he asked if I was waiting for something bad to happen. Before I could say anything he said, “If you keep thinking like this, it will.” Shock, horror, but he was right and it made sense. If I’m not grateful and feel guilty for being happy then the universe will move accordingly. I do not want that.
He also said that if my life had not gone how it has, then I wouldn’t be me or here (another round of applause for Guru Marv). My life has led me to this moment here – living in DC and trying to spread joy to everyone I can through my events and brand. If I wasn’t this happy person, maybe people wouldn’t be as happy around me. Maybe I would have chosen another career path or different hobbies and friends.
Finally, he said that I’m not just “lucky,” but that I work hard to have this life. Again, he was right. I wasn’t just born into a happy life and done nothing to maintain it – I have worked and do work incredibly hard to continue building upon the foundation I have. I work multiple jobs, I am self-aware and choose to work on my flaws, I put effort into my relationships with friends and family, I am not lazy in my goals, and I always try to be compassionate and learn. I haven’t been giving myself enough credit.
I slept on these new thoughts and ideas.
Until yesterday, I was full of guilt but I believe I have clarity now. Yes, I am lucky and all those other adjectives, but I refuse to continue questioning it. I am happy and I am going to claim it. Writing about this feels cathartic and I’m sharing in case it resonates with someone. I don’t have anything to hide and if this helps you feel less alone, that’s wonderful.
I don’t want to be afraid of fleeting happiness anymore. I am going to enjoy it and be thankful.