The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday August 13th

Farewell Column: I chose joy

Last semester, I was depressed. 

I would gladly provide details but, believe me, writing those three words took more gusto than you might think.

Furthermore, I don’t think it’s necessary for you to know the details in order for you to meet me where I am — or was, rather. 

This semester I made it a goal to get out of the slump, to turn things around, to find more joy. 

However, finding more joy proved to be a lofty task, and honestly I was struggling. 

It wasn’t until I listened to an episode of Pod Save the People, “Joy & The Gift” with Deray McKesson and Brené Brown, that my perspective on how to pursue joy became a little clearer. 

Throughout the conversation, Brown says that joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience. This, she says, is because we’re so afraid that once we lean into joy we’ll get sucker punched. So in order to avoid this pain, we dress rehearse tragedy, prepare for disaster and think of all the ways that that joy could be taken away from us.

How many of us have ever gotten a good grade and then immediately become more anxious about failing the next time? Backed out of a relationship because we knew that eventually it may end?

We choose comfort over courage. We rob ourselves of the opportunity to fully experience joy for the fear that it’s departure might hurt. We live in the darkness so as not to be blinded when darkness comes. 

In doing so, we condition ourselves to be comfortable with pain instead of happiness, making it impossible for ourselves to experience joy that isn’t temporary or conditional.

This is where I found myself.

It wasn’t that I did not have enough joy in my life, but that when joy did come to visit I wasn’t a good host.

So following this podcast, and a little more research into Brown’s work, I had a new mission. From then on I wasn’t going to find more joy, but rather empower, comfort and lean into what joy I did have.

The results of this slight tweak in my perspective have been incredibly powerful. 

I have found myself expressing more gratitude, laughing more, telling more people I love them. In short, I am actually taking time to enjoy my happiness. 

The hard times still come with the same frequency and strength as they have in the past. The difference now, however, is that when joy arrives I try to ignorantly indulge in it as if pain will never follow.

This is not to say that embracing joy has become any easier. I still hesitate to lean in, or hypothesize the ways in which a joyous moment could lead to pain, but here’s the key — I don’t act upon that fear. 

I choose vulnerability, I choose hope, I choose joy. 

What will you choose?

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