“Are you always in a good mood?”
A barista at a local coffee shop asked me this recently as I walked in with a smile beaming.
I laughed. “Well, I try to be.”
She gave me a look, lips pursed, and responded, “I know some people who could use some of that attitude.”
In my mind, I was thinking that maybe she could use some of this attitude since I was in this coffee shop four times a week and rarely had seen her so much as smile.
But after the encounter, I was almost mad. Of course I’m not always in a good mood. Of course not. And even if I was, why bring attention to it with a question plagued with rudeness? Why ruin my good mood with a question that seemed to refer to it as a bad thing?
I’ve noticed that people do tend to hold certain expectations of me: I’m the energizer, the enthusiast, the optimist, the person people rely on for motivation and positivity. I love having this role, and it comes so naturally to me. With this role, though, comes the belief that I’m always happy… or that I’ve never experienced hardship… or that I’m innocent, naive, and sheltered. And these things are just not true.
I’m not always happy, but I do genuinely try to be. As no-good and terrible as life can be (see: my sister with a child she can’t take care of, my alcoholic mother, my struggle with post-traumatic depression), I make a choice to see the good. To see whatever silver lining is hiding in the clouds. When you approach life with a glass-half-full mindset, you simply tend to be happier. This isn’t genetics or the way I was hard-wired. This is a choice.
I’m happy in spite of all the things life has given me because I want to be. That’s it. That’s the whole “secret” to living a happier life–deciding you want to.
No one gets to call me innocent because I smile. No one should use the word “naive” to refer to me because I don’t indulge in telling them about my problems. I’m not sheltered because I live a life that’s centered on the good in it.
Being happy, being genuinely carelessly happy is intentional. It takes effort. It’s not always an instinct. It’s rephrasing “I have to do this” as “I get to do this.” It’s self-care, and not necessarily the pretty kind. Sometimes it’s getting out of bed even when I don’t feel like it, it’s studying for an exam in a class that I hate, walking 10,000 steps when my legs hurt. It’s performing well now for successful results later for the happiness that these things bring.
Being happy is setting yourself up for success. Being happy is seeing success and growth in failure.
And all this takes is a decision. A decision to see your life for what’s good in it and working to change the things that aren’t.