Being Okay with “Okay”

I once asked a friend how her day was, and she said, “It was pretty okay.” I, being used to hearing “okay” with a somewhat negative connotation then said, “I hope your day becomes stellar.” And then she said this: “Thanks, but given the circumstances of the rest of the world, pretty okay is just fine by me.”

And that small statement shocked me. When we’re sad or depressed or hungry, a lot of times, we like to remind ourselves of the rest of the world and think of how blessed we are. We say #firstworldproblems and try to laugh it off. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Very rarely do we say that when we’re just okay. Just okay is boring. It means nothing special happened; you could have had a fantastic day, or you could have had a terrible day. But just okay? What’s up with that? We like action; we like it when something happens, even if it’s not exactly what we wanted. On okay days, we say, “I may not be having a bad day, but I deserve better.”

“Okay is just fine by me” is a beautiful thing to say. It is the epitome of contentment. And I’ve already written several posts on contentment, so I’m not going to restate myself (the best one is here). And it really comes back to the fact that happiness is a state of well-being and not a feeling. Your life doesn’t have to be great for you to be happy. We don’t have to have a stellar day to be happy. We just need to be okay with being okay. Or maybe being okay when we’re depressed and sad and feeling under the weather.

And another thing, when we’re sad, I think a lot of times we like to blame ourselves. Sure, we blame other people for the circumstances that put us into that place. But then we say, “Why can’t I get out of this? I should be stronger than this. Happiness is only a step away, why can’t I get to it?” We feel guilty because we do think about all the other people who are hurting worse than us, and that makes us feel like weak, superficial jerks. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to be in pain. It’s okay to be angry. It happens to all of us, and just because you can’t make yourself happy doesn’t mean you’re weak. It’s when that pain stays in your life, becoming your cloud of depression and bitterness that it becomes unhealthy. I’m not really the person to say exactly how to get out of that place, but what I really wanted to stress is that it’s okay to be in pain.

It’s okay to have amazing days; don’t feel like you stole it from someone else. It’s okay to be in pain; it’s not your fault. And it’s okay to be okay; that’s contentment. 

Epylle Spydre

p.s. Don’t be this light covered in ice. Let your light shine, okay or not!
(I wrote “okay” so many times in this post, it’s beginning to look funny…Woops!)

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photo credits to my loverly sister 🙂

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It’s the Little Things

Hey guys, 

I’m a rising high school senior and therefore, have plenty of stresses on my back. The stresses to get good grades, good test scores, and soon, to get into a good college all while juggling the schoolwork and after school activities that make up the average high schooler’s life. And there are plenty of places to be disappointed. I saw my first C+ on a report card (though it was only for the final exam grade, and I still did well in that semester and for the whole year). I’ve seen SAT scores that are good by normal people’s standards but not good enough in the high-achieving crowd I like to run with. And today, I got my first ever AP scores back. One 5, and two 4’s. And I saw that, and I was mildly disappointed. It doesn’t help that all my friends are posting facebook statuses about the multiple 5’s they got. But still. I got good, respectable scores, and I was disappointed. 

And thus, I found the entrance into the topic I wanted to talk about today: happiness, joy, contentment. All that jazz. If you look up their definitions, you find some really interesting stuff. Yes, believe me, it’s interesting. What’s interesting is that happiness and contentment are both defined as states of being, whereas joy is defined as a feeling. Because they’re all so similar to each other, they fall into each other’s definitions so that it’s hard to exactly define a single one by itself. And yet, here I am, trying to define happiness. 

It’s actually really interesting. I was just reading the main article of the latest TIME magazine (yes, I’m a nerd, and I’m quite aware of the fact). It’s called “The Pursuit of Happiness.” It’s all about how Americans have been pioneers, searching for something bigger and better since we were colonists. Often called the American Dream, this quest has led Americans to do great things, like invent the telephone and get to the moon and such. But actually pursuing happiness, setting a goal to find it, often leads to disappointment, like me with my AP scores. In the article, it had some inspiring quotes, and I really liked this one by Eleanor Roosevelt, “Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively.” 

And what I love about the definition of happiness, again, is that it is a state. And not only is it a state. And not only that. It’s “a state of well-being.” And some people think that happiness depends on the big things in life, like a good education and a good job and a good love life and a good family, etc. But some of the happiest people in the world are those who have next to nothing (though admittedly, having good relationships, unlike material things, definitely helps). The first thing that came to mind when I wanted to define happiness was: knowing that nothing could get better than this. And then I said to myself, What are you talking about? Happiness isn’t knowing that nothing could get better than this; it’s not caring if anything could get better than this. Happiness isn’t just an emotion; it’s a state of well-being

Happiness isn’t built on the big things. It’s built on the little things. Like watching squirrels in the backyard. Or letting little fish swim around your feet (that was my sister today). Or letting a tiny praying mantis crawl on your hand (that was me today). Just little things that help you see the beauty and the meaning of this life, regardless of whatever is going on in your life. Because no matter what bad things are happening, you still have life. And (hopefully, unless you’re the lone survivor of some alien attack that destroys the whole world), you still have the beauty of nature around you as well as people to share it with. 

Epylle Spydre

Isn’t he just adorable?

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(I got this picture from a very good friend of mine who generously let me use it for this)

 

I really shouldn’t be writing this….

What I’m doing right now is probably crazy, and definitely unheard of among the many over-achievers that I like to associate myself with. So, are you ready for the craziness?? Here it is: instead of working, I’m writing this blog. GASP! Crazy, right? But I really do miss it here. I have a hankering to write something. For you guys. And for myself. Unfortunately, I don’t, as of right now, know exactly what I’m going to talk about. But I’ll figure out something.

So, life is kind of tiring right now. All I’m surrounded by is work, work, and MORE WORK. Now, I’m not complaining, at least not too much. That would be the most pointless blog post ever. I’m trying to get somewhere. Ooh yes, I’ve figured it out!

We had a discussion in my AP Language and Composition class a while ago about society nowadays. How expectations are so much higher now, and people have to take the right classes to get into the right college to get the right job so that their future will be PERFECT! Oh! If only life were so easy! You see, the thing is, life doesn’t go as planned. It just doesn’t. Life has a wonderful sense of irony that tends to yank the rug out from under our feet just as we’re getting comfortable. But hey, if life didn’t have surprises, it would be pretty boring, yes? However, this leads to the question: if the future is so unpredictable, then why do we spend so much time planning for it??

I honestly don’t know the answer to that one. I will confess that I find myself prey to this temptation often; I, too, fall into the rut of the world, getting ready for a future that may never befall me. But I still haven’t answered my question. Why do we spend so much time dwelling in the future? Well, this makes me think of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and the American Dream. This American Dream tells us that if we have the willpower, we can accomplish anything we want and then become truly happy. Now, there’s nothing wrong with getting people to follow their dreams and to stick with them even when the going gets tough, but it’s still slightly misleading. What is happiness? Why does it always seem to lie in the future and not in our hands right now?  I believe that if happiness seems to lie in the future, then we will never get to that point where we will receive it. Happiness lies in being thankful for the here-and-now, not the future.

While discussing this in my AP Lang class, my teacher drew our attentions to a poem by an unknown author. I’ve provided it here.

We have bigger houses but smaller families;

more conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees but less sense;

more knowledge but less judgment;

more experts, but more problems;

more medicines but less healthiness.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,

but have trouble in crossing the street to meet our new neighbour.

We built more computers to hold more copies than ever,

But have less real communication;

We have become long on quantity,

but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;

Tall men but short characters;

Steep profits but shallow relationships.

It’s a time when there is much in the window

But nothing in the room.

I love this poem because it completely epitomizes exactly what I’m talking about. So instead of ruining the moment with more words, I’ll just leave it there.

Is there something in your room, or are you still looking out the window?

Epylle Spydre

Understanding Consumerism: from the Mouths of Bumblebees and Blueberries

As I said yesterday, I could have gone with the bee thing and gone on a different route: consumerism. This idea came up with the knowledge that as Americans, we are spending way too much money on honey, giving China millions of dollars. Just on honey. These aren’t hard-and-fast numbers, but it does convey the fact that we consume way too much. Blogging about consumerism makes me think of a book called The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian. It’s basically about a kid who blogs about consumerism, calling his blogs “sermons”, but there are more complexities that I won’t tell you about. It’s a good book, you should read it. But back to consumerism! (By the way, the blueberry part comes at the end, you’ll understand after you read it)

Do you ever look at how much random, useless stuff we have? If you’ve moved recently, you know that when you’re going through your belongings, you look at things and say to yourself, “Why in the world do I have this?” How many birthday gifts do we discard after a couple months because they’re just not that interesting anymore? When we compare our lifestyles to those of people in third world countries, we should be ashamed of how much we have (this is on my mind, because the kids are learning about Haiti at Vacation Bible School this week). I’m not going to lie, I enjoy living like this. I like my smart phone; I like being five minutes away from a Target; I like being able to decorate my room with fun stuff (or rather, let my sister decorate our room with fun stuff). I like that. But sometimes, we take all this just a little bit too far. We take our belongings, our comforts, for granted. We keep wanting more and more and more, and then, nothing satisfies us. Those are the dangers of consumerism, and I confess that I fall short of where I want to be.

I personally think that if people all over the world stopped buying stuff that they really don’t need, we’d be able to make our ginormous economic problem better. I’m no economist, but have you ever noticed that we go into these horrible depressions right after times of big spending? The Roaring Twenties, anyone? Maybe if we hadn’t spent so much during those times, we wouldn’t have crashed the way we did. And maybe, maybe we could understand the concept of sharing. Woah! Big concept right there! It’s not like we haven’t learned that sharing is caring from kindergarten or anything… But yeah, instead of buying stupid, silly things that we don’t need, maybe we could use that money to help people who actually need it. Have a little compassion people. Do you really need the newest iPhone, even though you already have one in perfect working condition? Do you really need that shirt, even though you have ten others in different colors? I didn’t think so.

And the saddest thing about consumerism is that ultimately, it doesn’t improve our lives, it makes them worse. We think that more is better, but then we keep wanting more and more and more, and as I said above, nothing satisfies us at that point. Instead of making us happier, which is what we think these things are going to do, they make us more depressed and steeped in the stuff that doesn’t matter at all. And then we don’t appreciate what we really have. I think this clip from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberrry movie is just about right. It took me awhile to find the perfect one, but this particular clip has bits from the movie to make a full picture of what I’m trying to say here. Think of it as my thesis statement. Yay for Veggie Tales!

In My Life, I Want to Pursue…

The title phrase can be filled in with many words: some obscure, like octopi or diving for pearls; some sentimental, like world peace or a Nicholas Sparks novel-style romance; but most people would fill it in with things like fame, fortune, or the ultimate goal, happiness. Even when people pursue those other things, they generally do it because it brings them some sort of happiness. The question is though: are they actually happy? How many of the people who pursue happiness actually acquire it? Does pursuing happiness actually bring happiness, or should we all try to pursue something else? Here in the US, we have a right to pursue happiness, and that is truly unique, but is it leading us in the wrong direction?

I’ll give you a picture here. Let’s say you work in a business, but you want a promotion. All your life, you’ve dreamed of doing this job, and you believe that it will bring you real happiness. So, you sacrifice a few weekends here and there, but it’s okay, because the end result will be good. You finally have the job you’ve been wanting for so long, and victory tastes sweet. You are truly happy.

Or are you?

No, now that you’ve gotten this job, you realize that you actually wanted the job one position higher. So, you keep working, maybe sacrificing a few more weekends, but once again, you tell yourself that it will be fine, and you get the new job. And NOW you’re happy, right? Not likely. Now that you’ve started this journey upward, you just want to keep going higher and higher. “It’s right to dream big, right?” You say, but in actuality, your big dreams have wrecked the people around you. “WHAT?!?” You say. Yup. It’s true. There’s a really good song that describes exactly what I’m trying to illustrate here. “American Dream” by Casting Crowns is that song, and you really really REALLY need to listen to it. Here, I’m even giving you a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DumlIIHSrsQ There’s one part in the song where it says “Now he works all day and cries alone at night. It’s not getting any better. Looks like he’s running out of time.” As listeners, we say, “What went wrong with this guy’s story? All he was doing was dreaming big. What’s wrong with that?”

Happiness is great, I’m not saying you should go out and quit your job, or flunk out of college so that you can gain “real happiness” ‘cause that’s what some girl said to do on her blog. NO! I’m just saying that happiness comes in a form that most people aren’t really expecting. And I believe that that source is not about serving oneself, but serving others or some higher purpose. Just think about it.

As soon as we stop putting the focus on ourselves, we are free to love other people and enjoy true happiness. By following the American Dream and pursuing our own happiness, we focus too much on our goal, until it almost becomes unrecognizable. It’s like those parts in movies where the camera is hyper-focused on the object in the foreground and then slowly unfocuses. But, when people take the focus off of themselves, they are free to see how beautiful and glorious this planet is. It’s the camera unfocusing, so that we see the background in sharp details. Because, try as you might, you will never be the most beautiful thing or person in the world. It just won’t happen. You will never be the best thing that ever happened to the world, so stop trying. But once you realize that, life is great! You are instantly freed to do what you were made to do: to love. We are creatures of love. No other species has quite the capability for love as humans. Even introverts, like me, enjoy being with people. When we take the focus off of ourselves, we can both love and come to our full potential. And through that, we find happiness.