The most chuckle-worthy activity of adulthood is reflecting on past “when I grow up” statements. Many wanted to be dinosaurs, princesses, wizards, or firemen. The statement universally agreed on as children was “when I grow up, I’ll be happier.” At the time, we didn’t know it’d be a wildly delusional statement. It made perfect sense as kids. Adults could drive, make money (our allowances fell well under the poverty line), and they could drink the strong smelling fruity “grown-up drinks.” They didn’t need someone stronger to open juice boxes or tie sneakers. They were strong, wise, and independent. They were content full-time. Adults had it made.
Some years of puberty and college later, many things successfully came together in my life. I’ve loved, laughed, graduated with honors, found a job and stayed alive for 23 years. Despite the good in my life, the presence of hardship never diminished. I failed in finding the full-time content I’d observed in adults. The good in life endured continuous interruptions from the weight of family dysfunction, heartbreak, failure, finances and illness.
My hard work and good intent did not sway the universe, Yahweh, Buddha, Allah or any other deity to press pause on hardships when life presented good fortune. Despite my efforts, I lacked the power to prevent the constant coexistence of good and bad.
This coexistence persists on a small scale everyday. Pleasant days are often stained by incidents like missing a credit card payment. Coping with a broad spectrum of emotions daily is draining and can lead to bitterness.
Recently, I’ve been transitioning from bitter to better. Growing up cynical, I found the worst in everything. At age 12, I was a professional critic of the world. My family even graced me with the nickname “Doom and Gloom” (they’re lovely people, I swear). Despite my innate pessimism, I’ve attempted controlling what affects me emotionally and mentally. I call this practice “selective feeling.”
My revelation came while studying literary theory, which required self discipline and analytical skills when reading through the lens of theorists to understand a theory. Perhaps, our perceptions of life aren’t much different. The perspectives we apply everyday ultimately become our truth. Many leading seemingly fortunate and happy lives focus their energy toward embracing their positive experiences. Likewise, those who victimize themselves and indulge in pessimism channel their energy toward embracing negative experiences.
Manipulating our perspectives aids in creating happiness. Similar to any lifestyle change, regular practice is required until it’s second nature (much like forcing yourself to exercise or order salad over pizza). Ultimately, altering perspective to embrace the positive results in better mental health, resilience, and confidence.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare writes, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” The world will not govern itself based on our will. We can will ourselves, however, to embrace the positive over the negative. Although life cannot always be ideal, perhaps thinking will make it so.
Jessica Varsames is a 23-year-old Hudson Valley native with big city dreams. Her life’s mission is to be known to the point where Microsoft products no longer recognizes her last name as a typo. She enjoys obsessively browsing real estate out of her price range, imitating Fetty Wap, and forcing her dogs to pose with her for Snapchat selfies.