I’m at that point in my life in which I can better discern what is meant to be truly memorable – what is meant to reverberate within the walls of my mind. There are the kinds of moments that catch my memory like a bear trap. They suffocate my concentration in a straight jacket of negativity. But these attachments will only achieve permanence if I let them.
At age 21, I finally understand the agency I have over my own mind, and over my perception of self and life. Despite anxiety and hardship, insecurities and self-consciousness, I am the endpoint of my own happiness. It is a huge responsibility, but a blessing none the less. My life is what I make of it, not what others make of it. Finding joy in life is certainly not the easiest of our tasks as humans. I find that we are more often reminded of all the injustice and deep sadness permeating the world, than of the goodness in humanity.
However, I truly believe this negativity can only be overcome when we maintain a consciousness of joy. If we do not appreciate life as a wonderful sphere of possibility, too much good goes undone. Across the board, we need to realize that love, joy, and happiness can rejuvenate anywhere in which there is negativity, sadness, or depression.
I am reminded of the Prayer of St. Francis. I have a laminated copy of the prayer printed on red paper that my elementary school was given on September 12, 2001 the student body gathered hand-in-hand for prayer after the 9/11 attacks. Furthermore, a song we sang frequently in my high school choir, Extreme Faith, at Corpus Christi Church offers more enlightenment on this transformation from negativity to positivity.
“Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me bring Your love,
Where there is injury, Your pardon Lord,
And where there’s doubt, true faith in You.
Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness – only light,
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.
Oh Master, grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of your peace,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving to all men that we receive,
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.”
So my personal goal this year, and for the rest that follow, is to replace negativity with positivity and despair with joy and hope, especially when I need to do so within myself.
This past Saturday, I did something I later described “Freshman Katie” would never have dared to do. I ran the “Happiest 5K on the Planet” with a cohort of some of my best friends. Yes, I ran “The Color Run,” and thankfully I crossed the finish line, and surprisingly didn’t pass out. Now when I say I ran it I mean I ran it, I power walked it, I leaped through it, and even danced through it. I didn’t sign up for the event because I wanted a good work out or because I needed to cross of an item from my bucket list – I signed up to do something ridiculously amazing with my friends. I call it my new, “Do it for the moment that will be a happy, exhilarating memory” – and, boy, was it that!
Throughout “The Color Run,” you are splattered with powdered color – like a human Jackson Pollock painting. At each kilometer, race volunteers threw so much color at you that you found yourself running through a kaleidoscope cloud. For a few seconds it was hard to breathe with all the color whooshing down my windpipe, but for the most part it was a chaotic frenzy of joy. I was truly living in that moment, and that moment only. Talk about a stress reliever.
I didn’t care that I was breathing at 65% normal capacity because of the color being thrown at me, I didn’t care that I had the worst running cramp of my life, and I didn’t care that I was obviously out of shape (well, I did care but I wasn’t torn up about it). All that mattered to me throughout the event was that I was doing something wild and crazy with my friends. We were sharing in the joy together. How often do you get to run and dance around for an extended period of time with your friends, without worry of homework, responsibilities, or even how you look? Not that often. I was lucky.
This Saturday I had another “click” moment in which I realized how lucky I am that life presents me with moments such as these and has brought me friends who share in this happiness. I may still have some color stuck to my skin and I may be a tad bit behind in my reading assignments, but it’s a small price to pay for a memory as vivid (literally) and joyous as this one.Overall I learned, these legs weren’t made for running, but I certainly do have the most amazing friends and life is pretty great right now.
It’s a wonderful privilege to be able to recall the past and understand how you have changed. Being okay with these changes is a sign of maturity.
The most frequently piece of advice I’ve heard in my life has been, “Go with the flow, it will all be okay.” I used to hate this phrase. It always felt it was an avoidance of giving truly applicable advice. However, I now understand how smart and useful this advice is. On Saturday, I went with the flow. I didn’t worry about anything. I just ran, screamed, danced and enjoyed sharing this magical experience with my friends. If you go with the flow, if you truly live in the moment and not in your anxieties or regrets, you can find happiness for yourself. This is where self-agency comes into the matter.
Getting hung up on the negativity stops your life in a way that prevents you from attaining happiness. I believe happiness is found when you keep moving. When you keep moving you learn how to trek through the mud of life and by as a result you become stronger in mind, spirit, and body. The forest of life is uncharted and dimly lit, but if you keep exploring and venturing through it you’ll find it grants more rewards than it does harm. You might run into a few thorns on your journey, but their little claws aren’t strong enough to keep you bound, so don’t let them. So I’m going to keep adventuring through this forest of life, because above it all will always be the sun, and with that sunlight there is always the possibility of happiness.
I came across this quote recently and it’s one of the truest sentences I have ever read. “The struggle is part of the story.” This story is life, and it’s a roller coaster of emotion – uncertainties and euphoria. However, with ever low comes a high. So just “go with the flow,” because in the end it all balances out.
On another note, my nephew Grayden turned 6 years old today. Since we don’t live in the same state at the moment, I wasn’t able to partake in the little gentleman’s birthday festivities. However, I got to Facetime with him this afternoon and he showed me some of his birthday presents. This is this kind of moment I like to fold up in my mind for safekeeping. This is a moment worth getting “stuck on” – a memory that brings all the smiles.
It’s amazing how quickly the years have started to pass. Grayden is already 6, his brother Gavin will be 3 in November, and his baby sister Scarlet just passed her 3 month birthday last week. Family is sweet. Life is sweet. Good things come when you let life move. Just be sure to move with it – don’t let it pass you by. Be present, be active, and enjoy every moment.
The advice I can safely give at my treacherous age of 21 is: identify those moments, those memories, in your life that brought you the greatest joy – the biggest smile – and preserve them forever. Let them energize you every morning, and not only remind you of all the good that has happened to you, but also of all the good that can and will happen to you. Let it define your perspective as one of hope and positivity. We have to listen to our thoughts at all times, so we might as well think good ones. Remember the only person you can’t block out is yourself. So be kind to yourself and choose happiness when you have the chance.