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Don’t forget to laugh

| Tuesday, April 15, 2014

“Student sometimes misunderstands his role in class.” That’s not really the greatest thing to have under the “comments” section of your eighth grade report card, but I suppose it’s better than “student sometimes wets his pants.” While I personally viewed it as something of an accomplishment — my friends all thought it was pretty badass — my parents were somewhat less amused. All in all, the little “chat” we had with my teacher and a couple of my other friends about what he called disruptions (we called it entertainment) could’ve been worse. Even though we got in trouble, I look back at that class and don’t regret pretending we were each other and being otherwise ridiculous. I look back and wouldn’t change much, not only because we made $5 via a bet by sleeping in between desks in class, but because our true compensation came in the laughter we elicited, both our own and, more importantly, our classmates’.
There’s this prevailing belief that people in general, especially students, can’t both be serious about their work and make a fool of themselves at the same time. There’s the class clown and there’s the bookworm. There’s the kid with the binder of detention slips and the kid with the 2400 SAT. The one with a weekly chat with ResLife, and the one with a 4.0 GPA. In reality, that’s not the case. My high school and I had more than my fair share of post-school “meetings”, and I … okay well maybe I’m not the best example here. The point is just because you’re willing to be ridiculous or go out on a limb doesn’t mean you can’t care. Just because you laugh doesn’t mean you don’t have heart.
A few people have said it might be wise to take life a bit more seriously. It’s come in a few different forms. “Pay attention.” “Don’t be an idiot, Matt.” “You’re still being an idiot.” “You’re fired.” “I don’t think I can love you anymore.” That last one was particularly hurtful — what the heck, Mom? But I think what they’re trying to say is that there are important things to do in this world and if you’re not careful, you might miss out on your chance to do something incredible. They’re trying to say that each of us has the power to change something, and our time is better spent on that than on a laugh or a joke. I think that’s a false choice.
I think that laughter is a gift we use far too seldomly.
When I think of people I want to spend time with, it’s those who not only make me think but make me smile; those that not only make me better, but also make me laugh. I refuse to believe we can’t laugh and care. I’ve seen far too many friends accomplish far too much all while laughing to believe otherwise. It may sometimes make other things a little bit tougher. There are late nights at the library that could’ve been shortened by an hour or three had we spent more time working and less time laughing. Some may argue laughter gets in the way. I would argue that sleep is good, but laughing with your friends is always better.
When he took over the Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon told his audience, “My goal is just to make you laugh so that you go to sleep with a smile on your face.” I can think of a whole lot of people trying to do a whole lot of things who can’t say they do something quite that worthwhile. Laughter is an essential part of a journey to anywhere, but it can also be a destination unto itself.
You won’t always make someone laugh. Sometimes you will, but sometimes they’ll meet your joke with the trademark chuckle of a pity laugh. Sometimes they’ll stare back with the same confused, frazzled and mystified look I have when I’m trying to say something in Spanish or order anything at Starbucks. Go for it anyway.
It’s worth it to try. It’s worth being ridiculous for those times it does make people laugh. It’s worth it because few things can top the moments spent laughing uncontrollably with friends. Few sounds or rewards or feelings are greater than the true, genuine laughter of those around you.
People have big dreams and big hopes for this world. Each and every one of us should be no different. But don’t be afraid to take a few chances. Chase down your dreams, and don’t ever forget to reach for them. But don’t be afraid to enjoy the pursuit on your way there.  In the words of Andrew Carnegie, “There is little success where there is little laughter.” Don’t laugh because people expect you to. But don’t be afraid to laugh even when the expectation is you shouldn’t. Life’s too fleeting to stifle laughter, skip shenanigans or cut an adventure short. Ultimately, go forth and do great things. But don’t forget to laugh.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


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