I want to start off by saying that I believe that it takes effort to be happy. I used to live with the belief that when my immediate problems went away, I would be happy. I thought that once I aced the test I was stressed about or resolved the fight with my boyfriend I was having, everything would be perfect. I would always be looking forward to another time. It was pretty naïve.
Life has a tendency to fly past you like that. One problem turns into another, and before you realize it, a month goes by and you’ve been miserable for the majority of it. Perfect days are rare. Something will most likely always be bothering you, no matter if it’s big or small. There is always going to be something negative to dwell on, to be upset about, or to complain about. And it sure is easy. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been focusing on the negative since I was very young. First, it was my father’s affair and the end of my parent’s marriage when I was 8 years old. I was so angry, I would slam my head on the concrete wall in the garage of my childhood house. I remember feeling so many emotions that I didn’t recognize, and I didn’t know what to do with them. All I knew for sure is that I was sad and I wanted everyone around me to stop being so mad at each other.
Looking back, I think I assumed negativity as my go-to from then on. It seemed like the effortless choice. Growing up in New Jersey made it even easier: why bother appreciating the beautiful sunset over the Garden State Parkway when you can curse out the guy driving in front of you who didn’t use his turn signal? It was almost part of my DNA.
I spent all of high school like that, too. Despite my inclination towards negativity, everything still ended up how I planned. I did well in school and went on to college to swim for a Division I team. I assumed that my way worked. Negativity was my norm, and it got me through the day.
Fast forward to October 2017, my sophomore year of college. It was a Sunday morning, and I had just walked into the dining hall with a few friends. I was grabbing for a water bottle when I blacked out. The next thing I remember is a paramedic telling me I had suffered a grand mal seizure. A week later, I was diagnosed with epilepsy and five months later, I was undergoing surgery to correct the damage that had been done to my shoulder when I collapsed. I was stable for almost six months when I had my second grand mal seizure. It was the first time in my life everything hadn’t gone the way I had planned.
Last week, following what felt like an unbearable few days, I had a huge realization. In my almost twenty-one years on this planet, there have been very few occasions in which I have truly just been in a moment. In efforts to combat my anxious mind, I have been meticulously planning my life as if I could determine the outcome. I have spent so much time worrying about my future that I never stopped to appreciate what the present looks like.
These days, I have been worrying more than ever. In fact, now I look back at the “problems” I had in high school and laugh about how trivial they were compared to what I deal with now. I have felt so resentful towards myself for getting upset about the silliest things all those years ago.
At the same time, though, I’ve realized that anything can happen. I didn’t know it then, but on October 1, 2017, my whole life would change. One minute, I barely knew what epilepsy was, and the next, I was hearing a doctor tell me that I would never be able to come off of anti-seizure medication.
That realization was crushing, but somehow, also extremely freeing. It caused me to look in the mirror and examine the way I was living my life. Obviously, what I’ve been doing so far isn’t working out so well. As much as we want to, we don’t have control over what will happen. We never will. We can only take the current moment and make it the best it can possibly be.
I encourage you to try it out for yourself. It takes effort, but I can promise you that the work is worth every minute.