The Joy Project

Finding joy in each and every day is a challenge for me. It doesn’t come naturally all of the time. I’m really great at appearing joyful: putting a huge smile on my face, filling the room with laughter, saying positive things. But when I’m alone it’s easy for me to let my guard down. It’s easy for me to become caught up in my emotions. It’s easy for me to be sad, stressed, anxious, and depressed. I find myself wanting what I don’t have. It’s like the saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side.”As I experience more and as I make my way into adulthood, I’m beginning to understand how false that statement is.

Before going off to college and living away from home I made myself miserable by being unappreciative and unsatisfied with my situation. I wanted to be out of the house, away from old friends, at a university as opposed to a community college.. you get the point. Basically, I wanted to run away from my problems, and going off to college was the only answer in my narrow-minded thinking. I thought that once I was gone all of my problems would disappear. I would no longer struggle with depression, body-image issues, loneliness, negative thoughts, and boredom. I would enjoy classes once I was at the college of my choice, I would have my life figured out, I would have a new and fun social life, everything would magically fall into place. It would be perfect! And then it came time to actually leave. Talk about a reality check! It turns out that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side (Mom and Dad were right..imagine that.)

Going off to college didn’t make my problems magically disappear. In fact, going off to college added even more problems! I began to miss the way things used to be. I missed living at home. I missed having my own space. I missed all of the things that I used to take for granted. On top of all of that, comparing myself to other people became even easier, wanting what other people had became a habit, thinking that no one else was struggling with anything became a daily battle. I quickly realized that school is school no matter where I was at. Classes aren’t enjoyable. I don’t suddenly love studying, writing papers, and doing homework, and friendships take a lot of time and they don’t just magically happen. I had to decide whether or not I was going to persevere through this challenge I was faced with or wave goodbye at what I now see is as an amazing, chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity.

I decided I was going to push through and see what happens by doing so.

Coming to this realization didn’t make things any easier. Choosing to stick with it and persevering meant I had to, and still have to, work hard every single day. I don’t magically have wonderful days filled with rainbows and butterflies. I am attacked by negative thoughts and feelings on a daily basis, but here’s the thing: I must decide to deal with those thoughts in a healthy way, and replace them with positive ones. And that isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it.

I still have those days where I come back to my dorm after a day filled with classes feeling defeated, overwhelmed, and hopeless. I have days where I just want to veg out, give up on my academics, stop caring about my health, and be a bum. Those are the days when it comes down to one thing: do I want to do this or do I not want to do this? The answer to that question is always, always, always going to be a big, fat “YES, I want to do this!” Because if I don’t do this, I will look back and have to deal with the decision that I made to waste my life and I just don’t think that’s something I can handle on top of everything else. Even though some days it’s tempting to dwell on all of my negativity, I am training myself to choose joy. I am learning to be content. I am deciding to persist and work hard. Even when I don’t feel like it.

One day when I look back on my life I know for a fact that I will not regret this, I know that this will shape me into the person I strive to become, and I know that this will give me a more fulfilling, God-pleasing, God-honoring life.

But until then I will live with this as one of my many daily reminders:

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