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For joy and sorrow

| Wednesday, September 15, 2021

In the last column I wrote entitled “Who’s to Say?” I spoke about my belief that this life is a simulation, and argued that in some capacity, our lives are monitored by an ever-present being or beings. This insinuates a bit that much of our lives are decided by an outer source, which, to me at least, removes some of the deep human emotion involved in the life experiences we have since they were bound to happen anyway. Many people with a faith in a higher power, including myself, believe that God has a plan for all of us, and all of our circumstances occur out of his will. While a dependence on something greater than myself is comforting and supporting, It leaves little room for processing the most consistent parts of living life — joy and sorrow.

I have spent most of my life going through the motions of excellence because that is what has always been expected of me. I graduated from high school amongst the most academically successful students in my class with an extended list of accolades, few of which I actually cared about and others simply because doing more was the standard. I attend one of the most prestigious Universities in the country, and I am expected to graduate on time and with flying colors. There are very few times in my life where I can truly say I struggled in something, and that struggle seems so trivial compared to the real tribulations that people right next to me face everyday. 

Family, friends, mentors and even strangers in Walmart who notice my Notre Dame sweatshirts all express their complete amazement in how I can accomplish so much at such a high quality, and while I know this is about to sound extremely cocky, up until very recently, very few things I have done have triggered an immense emotional response. This is the life I am expected to live, and these are the tasks I am meant to accomplish; If I were to do anything less than absolute perfection, I would be wasting all of the energy, patience and work everyone who has ever supported me has invested. However, though I have known it all my life, I am able to feel this nonchalant chronic pressure to succeed because of how immensely privileged I am to be in this position.

I grew up in a home with a family who see so much more in me than I have ever seen in myself. I have never and probably will never worry about being homeless or going hungry, not only because of my ability to take care of myself, but also because of the immense amount of support and resources I could turn to in an instant if something tragic would place me in such a vulnerable position. I have great health, people that love me and opportunities coming through every door, and I have the nerve to sit through my life and complain about the monotony of being successful and the struggles of a well off college student. Unsatisfactory dining hall food has no comparison to no food at all. Wearing a mask to class is in no league next to death daunting health issues. Was that argument or stupid, petty behavior worth the heartache of losing someone forever too soon?

I am so blessed to have so many things to be proud of and grateful for, and it would be a detriment to myself to not take the time to give thanks and be joyful because I am so blessed. I must honor those who have carried me to this point and those who couldn’t make it this far by finding the light in everything I do and every opportunity presented to me. I must constantly remind myself that while there might be an all powerful being or a society of individuals monitoring our process as human beings, this life and the emotions it evicts from us are the only real thing we have, and we must constantly be intentional about how we direct our energy. Pain is real. Suffering is real. But so is happiness. So is joy.

I went to high school with someone who was the complete embodiment of what it means to find joy in everything. He had severe and chronic heart issues before his freshman year and they lasted all his life. Not once did he ever complain about his circumstances or how his health treated him, and he spent everyday providing everyone with joy, even if it was at his own expense. He was so grateful to be alive, and he never had to say so verbally; it was all in how he treated people and how he attacked life. There wasn’t anyone he wouldn’t talk to, and whether you liked it or not, you were going to know he was in the room. We weren’t best friends, but he was always supportive, even if he had no idea what he was supporting me for. He simply wanted to show up for his people, and he exemplified what it means to pull joy out of every opportunity and possess humility through all of your blessings. He passed away recently, and I am forever touched by his spirit because of the way he lived. He embraced every moment until his last, and trying to comprehend his absence reminds me of how fleeting those moments of joy can be.

Every moment won’t be perfect. Every moment doesn’t deserve a pat on the back and confetti thrown in your face. But every moment deserves the chance to be embraced and hold weight in our short lives. Every moment deserves to know its circumstances on being here. Every moment deserves to be cherished.

Sydni Brooks is a senior studying English and gender studies. She hopes to continue her work in writing and editing in her career while advocating for women’s health issues. She can be reached through her email [email protected] or @sydnimaree22 on Twitter.

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

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