what i learned from the worst new year's eve of my life
“Never have I ever been high.”
It’s my go-to statement whenever I find myself caught in a game of “Never Have I Ever.” It’s always bound to get the majority of people to lower a finger, and it’s also true. Or at least it had been until now. I had basically been high as a kite since coming home from the hospital on December 28 (I had surgery done to fix a torn ligament in my right foot) and, while the percocets were knocking out some of the pain, they were also knocking out my ability to think.
Apparently my body hated it as much as my mind did because my relationship with narcotics came to a violent end on December 31, 2015. New Year’s Eve.
I woke up to my alarm at 4am, the time I was supposed to take my next dose of Oxycodone. My head was pounding with a fierce, sharp pain that I wasn’t used to, but I was so concerned with doing every single thing right post-op that I ignored the pain, took the pill, and closed my eyes, ready to sleep until my next dose in 4 hours.
However, when I woke up again at 8, the pain in my head was excruciating. I’ve had migraines before, but this was ten times worse than anything I’d experienced. Forget the pain in my foot, I could barely see because of the intensity of the headache. I figured I’d just “wait it out” and see if skipping the next dose would help: not really.
My dad, who’s been taking care of me while I’m on bed-rest and whose house I’ve been overtaking, came downstairs and could tell right away something was wrong. He suggested I eat something, but nothing sounded like a worse idea at that moment. He brought me a banana anyway. I took a tiny, minuscule bite (like the kind of bite a toddler takes when you tell him he has to finish his vegetables before dessert), and that was it. I grabbed the bowl next to me and, not to be graphic, but . . . it was graphic. I lost everything I had consumed since coming home from the hospital three days earlier.
I was getting pale and sweating profusely with my foot still propped up on my dad’s reclining chair, right next to his Christmas tree which was full of bright ornaments wishing me a season of “Joy” and “Peace,” and for the rest of the morning I got miserably and violently sick.
The pressure from getting sick was causing my head to throb even more and I went back and forth between leaning over the bowl, to leaning back and grasping at my head desperate for the pain to stop, to crying, to sobbing, to coughing, to gasping, to getting sick some more. Then it would subside for a half-hour or so and I would find a position that was semi-comfortable and wait there until the process started all over again. My poor father had to witness (and clean) it all.
Finally the nausea decreased, or maybe I had just finally emptied everything out of my system, and I was able to sit up again. I was able to slowly take sips of water, then try a bite of bread, and then some brown rice. Everything was staying down. My headache was still present but nowhere near what it had been. At least I could function again. At least now I could remember why I was in this situation in the first place: my foot. And at least now I knew for a fact that I really never should do drugs.
When I was finally able to think clearly again, I started thinking a little too much. So . . . this is how I was saying goodbye to 2015: crying, throwing up, withdrawing from narcotics, in pain, confused, sad, lonely, and insanely bored from just sitting around all day. This was not the end to 2015 I had envisioned. And yet somehow, it fit. It was the culmination of a kind of not-so-great year. I thought the twelve months previous were rough, but this definitely took the new year’s eve cake.
Everything in my life changed in a split-second during an insignificant play in an early-December college basketball game. I went from being an athlete, and defining myself as such, to being sidelined and reminded 24/7 of my life-long struggle with body image issues and the issues I have with controlling food, counting calories, hating myself, and treating my body and mind unhealthily.
It took that one brief moment, three minutes into the second half, for all of my trust issues to resurface, anxiety issues to resurface, and the depression that I thought I had beaten to resurface. This was the hardest thing I had faced in 2015, and it was coming in right at the buzzer. So close to the new year in fact that it was, inevitably, going to transfer over into 2016.
But did it have to transfer? I mean, obviously my foot was still going to be a bummer in the new year. Obviously I was still going to be on bed-rest for at least another week and a half in January. And obviously I wouldn’t be able to run or participate in sports for months. But, the depression? The obsession with counting calories? The negative body image, the fixation with control, the self-loathing, the anxiety? Did that all really have to transfer?
When you’re forced to sit in a chair all day, there’s really not a whole lot to do other than think. Eventually you get tired of scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, so you log off. You put away the electronics and you’re left with . . . your own thoughts. Terrifying.
When I flashback to new year’s eve 2014, I think about the optimism I had. I had just broken up with “the love of my life” (spoiler: turns out, not actually the love of my life) and I was devastated, but I was hopeful. Damn, was I hopeful. Although a little nervous about it, I was excited about being single and learning to love myself again after a relationship that had left me insecure and lost.
I was getting asked to speak and sing for middle and high schoolers about mental health issues, and I was excited about that, too. It was everything I had ever wanted to do with music: help others heal.
And musically, I was on cloud nine. I was set to go into the studio the first week of January with a producer I admired, a band I was excited to work with, and songs I was so ready to release. Music was going great, and I was elated.
Flash-forward a year later and I’ve never been so confused about music or its role in my life. The new songs are still out there somewhere, wherever unfinished songs go to rest. Maybe an unfinished song limbo of sorts, probably providing the soundtrack for all the socks that go missing when you do laundry. Who knows if they’ll ever be seen again, and honestly I’m not even sure at this point if I want to see them again.
My identity as a musician has dwindled to the point that I don’t even consider myself a musician anymore. Once wildly in love with music and how it made me feel, I’ve found that in 365 days music turned drastically from being my biggest outlet and source of comfort to being my greatest source of anxiety, and I’m ending 2015 on the lowest musical note (not really trying to make a pun, but I’ll go with it) in recent memory.
I am still single 365 days later, although I’m incredibly happy about it and much healthier (emotionally) this year. I’ve re-learned how to love myself and have stopped searching for romance. I have become maybe a little too independent (another life lesson I’m learning from this whole foot thing) and I’ve adopted the infamous Taylor Swift attitude circa 2014 when she was all “I’m never dating again and I’m done with men and it’s just gonna be me and my cats in NYC forevs.” Except I’m allergic to cats. And NYC drives me crazy. But other than that, basically the same thing.
A year later, and I’ve lost my identity as an athlete. I won’t be able to participate in sports until after months of rehab. But then again, as I’m sitting here having my little new year’s eve pity party, I realize that maybe I missed the key word in that statement . . . “until.” I can’t participate in sports until . . . Until. The word itself inspires hope.
It means that this is not forever. It means that I am lucky. This was not a career-ending injury. I will be able to run again. I will be able to play soccer again. I will be able to shower standing up again (although to be real for a sec, seated showers are kind of amazing and why aren’t they more of a thing?).
So, there I have it. Temporary. This situation is temporary. 2015, although kind of shitty, was temporary. And a lot of good did happen in the year. I met a lot of amazing people that I want to be in my life for a very long time.
I learned to let go of dreams, and people, that maybe were not meant to be in my life at all. I learned that some people may say they believe in you, but that’s only because it sounds nice in the moment. I learned that words and actions are two magnificently different things, and that I’m tired of people who say one thing and do another. And I consequently learned to stand up for myself, and for others, and to walk away when necessary from the people who are unable to support their words with appropriate actions.
Maybe this is all a gift, then. One big ugly beautiful gift. Because while I might be sitting here in pain, isn’t it the most painful moments that inspire the most healing? I could have opted to avoid getting the surgery, but it would have left me with a semi-functioning, highly arthritic foot, and in my twenties I would have been done with athletics forever.
So it turns out the pain, although highly inconvenient, is also highly necessary. Maybe in the same way, the lows of 2015, though highly inconvenient, were necessary. Maybe they were necessary to get me to 2016. To make me appreciate what’s coming next.
Because if 2015 started with an optimistic high and ended with a slow, steady, downward spiral that landed me in my dad’s chair on December 31, to the lowest point of the entire year (so melodramatic, I know, but cut me a break I’ve been trapped inside by myself for days), then why can’t the opposite happen? Maybe 2016 has no where to go but up.
When the clock strikes midnight and it becomes January 1, I will still be in this freaking chair. I will still be in a crap-load of pain. I will still be lonely. And I will still be confused, sad, and a little (OK, a lot) depressed. But, what if the lowest point of my 2015 is also the lowest point of my entire 2016? What if instead of a downward trajectory, I spin upwards towards the highest I’ve ever been?
What if on December 31, 2016, one year from now, I’m sitting somewhere thinking about how fan-freaking-tastic 2016 was and how grateful I am that I started it at the very bottom? What if each day of 2016 I only get stronger, healthier, happier, and more of myself than ever before? If that’s the case, then I’m glad this happened. I accept the low in pursuit of the high. Just not the drug kind of high . . . dude, that was horrible.
So then, here’s to new beginnings. Or a beginning that looks a whole lot like the end, but really is a gateway to something bigger, better, and more wonderful. 2015, I can honestly say you really were not that great. But nonetheless, I am grateful for you. Thanks for everything.
hope - and why we should talk about difficult topics
Hope is a powerful, powerful thing. From individual hopes for the future to idealistic hopes for humanity, people often talk about the things that they hope will happen. It’s easy to talk about hope because it represents the possibility of change. It is a spark of light that can illuminate even the dimmest of places.
But no one likes to talk about what happens when that hope seemingly disappears. Because, if hope is light, then the absence of that light is darkness. It is depression. And talking about depression makes people uncomfortable.
My child psychology class last semester covered depression for exactly one half of one class period. Comparatively, we discussed a newborn baby’s sleep cycle and crying patterns for two weeks. Now, I’m not trying to take anything away from the legitimacy of learning about neonatal care, but the topic isn’t exactly pertinent to my life at the moment.
Needless to say, I was frustrated when, as we got to the topics I was truly interested in, the ones I really, really wanted to talk about, they were rushed through and brushed over in about twenty five minutes.
Eating disorders, self-harm, depression, and suicide; Devoting such a short amount of time to the discussion of these issues does nothing to combat the innumerable fallacies and misinformation that surround them. And unfortunately, a lack of discussion leads to the development of false stereotypes, misguided judgements, and unfair labeling. For example, the notion that a person who struggles with an aforementioned disorder is “weird”.
During our brief class discussion about self-harm, a girl in the back of the class, who had a habit of commenting on everything the professor said, raised her hand and proceeded to tell the rest of us about a girl she knew in high school who, as she put it, “did that cutting thing and it was so weird”.
My classmate talked about the girl as if she were a circus attraction, one that the whole school treated as a pariah. I was boiling.
Self-injury is not “weird,” it is a mental disorder. Had my classmate understood the depth of the disorder, or the emotional pain and shame that goes with it, she would have chosen different words to describe it.
She also would not have assumed that the girl she knew in high school was the only one suffering with/from the desire to self-mutilate. In fact, I would be willing to bet that there were multiple students at her school who struggled with self-destructive thoughts, patterns, and behaviors.
That’s because self-harming, eating disorders, and depression are unfortunately so prevalent among adolescents. Yet, because there is a sense of shame that surrounds them, they’re rarely discussed. Consequently, their prevalence is grossly underestimated.
Keeping quiet about them just feeds the behaviors, but no one wants to talk because they don’t want to be judged. They don’t want to be ostracized or labeled as weird. They don’t want to be the subject of gossip.
It personally took me a long time to learn how to talk about my own struggles. I spent so long feeling alone, like no one would understand what I was thinking or feeling, and so I bottled up everything. But as I began to be more open, I found more and more people who were dealing with similar things. The realization that I wasn't alone became a source of hope.
But so many people don’t have that reassurance and, as a result, they keep everything inside until they can’t handle it any more. Until the darkness consumes them and blocks out all the hope that they’re not alone, that others have been where they are, that others have faced the same things they are facing and have healed.
My Facebook newsfeed has been blowing up recently with articles about suicide. All of the victims have been so young and all seemingly had so much going for them. But they all lost hope that things would get better.
I can’t pretend to know the circumstances or motivations behind each of these victim’s deaths, but I do know that even the littlest bit of hope can help someone hold on. That’s why we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about our struggles. Because if no one ever shared their story, there would be no hope for healing.
I hope someday soon there will be more educated discussions about these kinds of difficult topics, and I hope that those suffering with these disorders will feel less shame and more acceptance. Especially more self-acceptance.
The other night, I found myself on a school bus at one am surrounded by drunk rock music fans. It wasn’t a dream. We were on our way back to Philadelphia from seeing a band play in New York City. It was late and everyone had been drinking since the bus left for the show earlier that night, around 6:30. I was pretty optimistic that everyone would pass out and sleep on the way home. Unfortunately though, I made a really poor seating choice.
Instead of sleeping, I stayed awake for the two hour drive listening to the drunk guys directly behind me. They were partaking in some pretty cliché drunken activities: the inevitable singing/yelling/butchering of classic songs, the stupid sex jokes, and the slurred spontaneous professions of bro-love for one another. Then there was the beer spilled on my skirt and the guy who kept forgetting that my head was not his own personal arm rest.
But, as annoying as those moments were, there was one point in the night where I became absolutely fixated on their conversation. I would call it eavesdropping, but I don’t think it counts as eavesdropping if the people are talking loud enough to be heard in a different state.
They started talking about what they wanted to do with their lives. The younger ones, probably just a few years younger than myself, were talking about how they wanted to drop out of college. All of them. They all wanted to do the things that they were passionate about and were lamenting the fact that they had to wait four years to do it.
Then, the older and “wiser” ones (I put wiser in quotations because, for the life of me, I can’t call someone who pees in the back of a school bus wise and mean it) chimed in. They were out of college, in the real world, and hating every minute of it. All they wanted to do was follow their dreams, but they felt trapped in their current situations.
One of the drunk guys loudly proclaimed “I have hated every single thing I’ve done since high school.” There may have been a few expletives in there, too. Everyone else mumbled in drunken agreement, and then they sang Build Me Up Buttercup and an arm landed on my head for the umpteenth time.
I was staring out the window during this conversation and, as I watched the car lights fly by on the other side of the Jersey Turnpike, I started reflecting on my own life. By the time they hit the chorus of Build Me Up Buttercup, I had come to a pretty profound realization: I have loved every single thing that I’ve done since high school.
In June of 2008, when I walked out of my high school for the very last time, I remember feeling completely free. At 17, I had chosen to defer my admissions to my top choice school and in the process turned down a scholarship and an opportunity to play soccer. Unsurprisingly, I was met with a lot of different reactions to this decision, and most of them were negative. Many people at the time had no qualms about exclaiming straight to my face that I was “throwing away my future”.
Even within the confines of my immediate family, there were mixed reactions. My brothers were annoyed that I wasn’t being forced to go to school, and my mom, despite her unconditional love and support, found it hard to hide the disappointment that she wouldn’t realize her dream of seeing each of her kids earn a college degree.
Some of my friends’ parents tried to convince me that if I didn’t go to school I would end up on the street as a drug dealer or a prostitute. And kids my own age thought that “pursuing music” was just a grand scheme to cover up the fact that I couldn’t get into college. This one annoyed me the most and it took a long time to stop being super defensive about it. For the record, just because someone is not pursuing higher education, it is not a definitive reflection of their intelligence. (I may still be slightly defensive).
Because of these reactions, I spent a lot of time agonizing over the legitimacy of my decision. Instead of enjoying what I was doing at the time, every move I made was laced with a back-of-the-mind thought that asked: should I really be doing this? Should I be in college right now? Should I be doing something more practical? Should I be hating my life more?
I wish that I could go back and have a frank conversation with that younger version of myself. First, I’d probably tell her to never ever get blonde highlights again. And then, after giving her some dating advice and a complete wardrobe overhaul, I would confidently and persistently assure her that she is exactly where she should be.
Had I chosen to listen to everyone else, to do what they wanted me to do, to pursue the path they wanted me to take, I may have ended up with a degree and a “real” job, but I am 99.9% certain that I would be miserable. I would be a drunk guy sitting in the back of a school bus complaining about life. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Now, I’m not hating on college. I actually think it’s really important and in most cases pretty necessary. But I just get frustrated when people complain about their lives and then do nothing to change it. And I get even more frustrated when they start to blame other people for their present circumstances. And I get the most frustrated when people look at me and tell me that I’m lucky because I’m not in those same circumstances.
I truly appreciate my blessings and all of the opportunities I’ve been given, and I am extremely grateful for them. But I also acknowledge the fact that my circumstances have not been contingent on luck. I wasn’t handed some winning lottery ticket that said “Hey, you can go do what you want now! Congratulations!” I was faced with the same choice that every single senior in high school has to make. I chose differently. And I think that chalking it up to luck depreciates just how difficult of a decision it can be to actually chase your dreams.
Jim Carrey recently gave an incredible commencement speech at Maharishi University, and I highly recommend watching it on Youtube if you haven’t seen it already. The whole thing is pretty inspirational and of course highly entertaining, but there was one quote in particular that has stuck with me.
He talks about fear and how we each get to choose how much of a role it plays in our lives. He goes on to state that “so many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.” Fear disguised as practicality. I love that.
When people tell me that I’m lucky, some even joking that they hate me because of what I’m doing with my life, they don’t realize that they have the option of being just as “lucky”. They have dreams that they consider to be impractical, and so they have made a conscious choice to pursue something safer. Something more widely accepted by society. But they can choose differently.
I believe that it is an act of loving yourself to be confident enough in your own voice to use it, and to be confident enough to choose your own path, even if it strays from the one that others have drawn out for you. But too many people don’t use their voice. They speak, but it is someone else who is talking for them. They choose to let someone else dictate their life path, and they do it out of fear.
Chasing a dream is a choice made by someone who chose to overcome that fear of failure and the fear of rejection. To overcome the fear of others’ disapproval. Honestly, there is always going to be someone who disapproves of what you’re doing. And I just think the greatest injustice is having the person who disapproves of what you’re doing . . . be you.
it's a journey, not a destination
I have been exceptionally naive about a lot of things in my life. For example, I used to wholeheartedly believe that swallowing a watermelon seed would result in an entire watermelon growing in my stomach. Similarly, I believed an apple seed would result in the growth of an apple in my stomach, and an orange seed the growth of an orange. Basically, I was terrified of fruit for the majority of my adolescence.
Then there was the time that I broke my wrist and, in order to play in soccer games, I had to wrap my cast in bubble wrap to make it softer. I naively believed my older brother when he told me that the only way I could test to see if the cast would pass referee inspection was to hit myself in the face with it as hard as I could. To this day, I still remember his laughter and my pounding head, not to mention my wounded pride.
Recently, I discovered that though I may have outgrown my fear of fruit, and the willingness to believe everything my brother tells me, I have not outgrown naivety altogether. This realization came after acknowledging the time, not so long ago, that I started a self-love journey under the false assumption that it would only have to be a one time thing: a start-then-finish, once-then-done, think-about-it-for-a-little-then-get-on-with-life type of adventure. Naive, indeed.
The past few months have been an extreme mental and emotional struggle, but it took me a while to actually accept that fact. I was so hesitant to admit to feeling lost because I knew how far I had grown in positivity and healthy self image, and I didn’t like the idea that I may have fallen from that peak. After all, I knew how hard I had worked to get there, and no one wants their work to be in vain.
But what happened? Why did I keep slipping back into old, negative habits?
Well, after months of working hard and challenging myself to grow, I got to a place emotionally where I felt good. Really good. I felt healthy, which was a big deal.
But then I developed a lackadaisical attitude, thinking I had reached a point in my journey where active and forward movement was no longer necessary and I could simply float by based on the work that I had already done. I ceased pursuing self-love at all, believing I could maintain positivity without effort. But the foundation wasn’t strong enough to stand on it’s own.
After painstakingly learning to rewire my brain and accept only positive thoughts, the opposite was now happening. I started gaining unhealthy habits back, no longer rejecting negative thoughts or ideas. Eventually, I was swimming in negative feelings and emotions until, inevitably, I started turning those negative feelings inward towards myself.
I wasn’t in a place where I was ready to address what was happening, but the lightbulb finally came on when I was confronted with strong negativity coming at me from someone else.
I’ve learned that two things happen when someone verbally tears you down: your unconscious either disagrees with them and starts to build you back up, or it agrees with them and uses it as ammo to bring you down even more.
I had succumb to negativity to the point that, when I heard someone else speak a negative comment about me, I could no longer disagree with it. When I turned to my inner self for truth, I had nothing. Instead of refuting the outside voice, my inner voice agreed with it, and that was my wakeup call.
That person was wrong about me, and so were the thoughts that my mind was now accepting as truth, I just needed to find a way to start believing in myself once again. In other words, I needed to re-rewire my brain.
As frustrating as it is to feel like i’m starting over, I at least know what I have to do. I know myself well, and I understand what works for me and what doesn’t. I am confident that by continuing to challenge myself to try new things, while paying close attention to my thought process, I can get back to where I once was. And then, most importantly, after I’m there, I will keep going.
I now know that this is going to be a life-long journey, not just a trip with an end destination. But I fully accept the challenge and am ready to work as before. I know from experience that it can only lead to good things. And that is what makes it so exciting . . . and so very worth it.
If you are on your own journey, I hope you keep finding the inspiration you need to move forward daily. You will always have my unending support!
how a smile changed the world
To claim that one smile can change the world is a pretty sanguine statement. I mean, really? One smile? The whole world? For as small as social media has made it seem, geographically the world is still a pretty large place. So the thought of one single smile changing all 196.9 million square miles of our planet seems like a bit of a stretch.
But what if it that idea isn’t crazy? What if one smile really can change the world? Before you roll your eyes and write me off as an unrealistic optimist, let me explain why I've suddenly been reevaluating the legitimacy of that idea.
It all started last Friday:
I was having a pretty bad day, and I was extremely grumpy. I was annoyed, frustrated, sleep deprived, a little hungry, a lot emotionally drained, and my bad mood was written all over my face. I was in the car driving, completely tuned out from the world. I wasn’t even singing along to the radio, which for me is my biggest tell that something is wrong. I always sing in the car. Always. But not that day. That day I was pissed and it showed.
I pulled into Wawa to get a few things for a long drive I was about to take out of state. I walked in and avoided eye contact with everyone. Why smile? It doesn’t matter. People don’t notice, and they don’t care. And they never smile back.
So, I made up my mind: I wasn’t going to smile. I was going to stay in my little dark bubble and pretend no one else was there.
And so, when the guy at the coffee station made a joke about the hot chocolate I was putting in my coffee, I refused to engage him in conversation like I normally would have. Instead, I gave a slight nod, a bare minimum acknowledgment of his existence, and walked away.
I was feeling bratty, and I wanted the world to know it. I wanted the world to know what it had done to me. And I wanted the world to know that I had officially given up on it.
But then something happened. A light happened. A light in the form of a short, middle-aged woman with a green winter parka and a beautiful, contagious spirit. This woman was two people ahead of me in the line at the check-out counter.
Up until this point, everyone in the store had just been going through the motions: the cashier with her monotonous and disinterested “Hi, how are you, will this be all?” followed by the hurried reply from the anxious customer trying to rush her along, the mother standing in front of me engrossed in a vapid conversation with her teenage son about gum flavors, and then me, with my own self-consumed demeanor, just adding to the dismal environment. I was leaning against the counter, staring at my phone and doing my best to block out everything around me.
But then . . . the woman in the green parka stepped up for her turn to check out.
“A box of Marlboro Lights, please.”
Just an average woman making a simple request for a common brand of cigarettes. It was completely unassuming and yet it changed everything.
There was something very different about the sound of her request. The entire sentence she spoke sounded different because each word she used had been carefully formed through an authentic smile. I looked up.
This wasn’t your normal, polite, run-of-the-mill, fake, friendly smile. This was a SMILE. A genuine, full-of-feeling smile that she was giving for no reason at all. It was the kind you can’t help but stare at, completely entranced. The kind that makes even the hardest of hearts smile in return because it’s too amazing to leave hanging on its own. You want to join in. You want to smile. And smile we did.
Every single one of us got hit by it. All of a sudden, the cashier was full of energy and became engaged in conversation with the customers. She made eye contact and laughed, joked, and smiled for the first time since I had been in the store. The people ahead of me smiled and laughed. And then, most surprising of all given my own determination to make the world know how pissed off I was, I smiled and laughed.
I smiled the kind of smile that I secretly hate because it makes my face look all weird and contorted: full faced, eyes all crinkled up, cheeks stretched to the limit. But this time, I loved it.
I was happy because there is no possible way to smile that big and not be happy. And the reason I smiled that big is because the woman in the green parka’s smile had flooded me with the urge to choose happiness, the same way she had chosen happiness.
I am convinced this woman has a lot of trials in her life. We all do. But the difference is in how she chose to react to those trials. She was probably just as anxious, overwhelmed, and worried about life as the rest of us, and she seemed like she may have been struggling financially. She could have easily joined us in our miserable self-pity and no one would have blamed her. But instead, she chose the harder path. She chose to be a source of light rather than another source of darkness.
She understood that happiness is a daily, sometimes even moment to moment, decision, and somewhere along the lines she decided she was going to be happy despite her circumstances. She didn’t let all of the negative attitudes in the store bring her down and, because of her strength and light, she was actually able to lift the rest of us up. She chose to smile and what happened? It made other people happy.
That smile changed my entire day. I got in the car and was grinning ear to ear. I turned the radio up and sang every song. I looked at other people in the cars next to me at red lights and I smiled at them. I danced and drummed the dashboard and then laughed out loud at myself. I enjoyed the day.
I got stuck in Philly traffic for an hour which made my trip an hour longer than it should have been, and I didn’t care. I was laughing and dancing and singing and smiling and happy the whole time. All because of that woman’s decision.
I am so grateful to her for reminding me who I want to be: I want to be a spreader of light and love, even on the days and in the moments when it’s the hardest and when I don’t really feel like it. I want to smile anyway and do for other people what she did for me.
There were about five of us in line at Wawa whose days were completely turned around by that one smile. Suppose the five of us then smiled for the rest of the day and we each changed the days of five more people . . . That’s 25 happy people.
And then suppose us 25 happy individuals then smiled for the rest of the day and changed the days of five more people each . . . That’s 125 happy people. And what if it didn’t stop there?
What if one smile sparks another smile which sparks another, which starts a ripple effect of smiles until everyone in the world has experienced the true beauty and freedom that comes with choosing to be happy despite negative situations? What if we can in fact create a world full of smiles, and those smiles bring happiness, and that happiness brings love?
And all it took to start that love was a courageous woman who decided to believe and act on the crazy notion that one smile really can change the world.
I know it changed mine.