Friday, June 24, 2022

(Not) Happily Ever After, But Happy Nevertheless

For the first time in two years, I attended my first large-group work gathering. While meetings had been back to normal since the start of the year, I have often begged off attending. I have not had COVID and it is still something that I am very careful about. 

My boss had been trying to convince me to attend meetings, telling me that people have been looking for me constantly and everyone wants to see me. I have been able to dodge a major convention recently but because the recent meeting was coinciding with a visit to the wake of someone that I respected a lot, I had no choice but to finally attend a meeting.

I was pleasantly surprised by how happy people seemed to have been to see me. People had big smiles as they walked up to hug me and said how happy they were that I was there. People even asked to take photos with me just because I was there. 

At one point, one of my colleagues paused mid-conversation to tell me that I looked beautiful. I was a little taken aback by it. Mind you, it was not said in a flattering or flirting way. It was more of an “I’m so proud of you” kind of comment. I was told that my aura these days was very different from two years ago. I looked happy, adding that I looked like a person who was in love. It was that kind of glow. Another one chimed in saying that I used to look so tired, so sad, and haggard. The way I looked now is a complete turnaround from the person I used to be. They said that they were happy for me. I could see the sincerity in their faces when they talked about it. It was the first time people talked to me about how I was not doing well back then (albeit indirectly).

No one ever confronted me about how I was not in a good place back then. I was treated in a way that didn’t coddle me. People did not dictate how I should be, think or act, and I truly appreciated that. Just knowing there were people who had my back when I needed them was enough.

I’ve often said it in jest but one way to tell if I was happy was if I was losing weight. I’m an emotional eater. I (as cliché as it sounds) tend to eat my feelings. I keep it in when I am feeling bad. So the past few years of being overweight was a clear sign that there was a problem. It was only last year that I have been able to turn things around (and lose the weight). 

Someone asked me what triggered the change in me. I can’t think of an exact moment that made things happen because truthfully, I was probably at my worst as recent as last year. I have had mental health struggles in the past, but from mid-2020 to early last year, I felt like there was nothing more to live for. Nothing was going my way and there were just so many challenges with life that I could not find myself sharing/expressing to other people. I have not told anyone about this before, not even my family. I felt like there was nothing more for me to look forward to in life and I just gave up on everything. 

I had all but given up on life…until I just had this thought that I still wanted to live. I started to meditate and pray every morning. I started working out. I started to listen to (and watch videos of) BTS. I started to slowly learn to take care of myself more, not just physically but mentally. They were little things that added up little by little until it became a way of life for me. Next thing I knew I was 40 lbs lighter and looking like a different person. Even acting like a different (and notably happier) version of myself. 

Should I call this new lease on life my happily ever after? I think there is so much to unpack with the term. That would be saying that I would be consistently happy from this point on. Or that things will always be good from now to forever. But part of my recent journey is learning to accept that life will always have its ups and downs. To expect perfection in our lives and ourselves puts too much pressure on how we should live. I would rather take what I can get and make the best of it. Do my best to see the good in things, and seek happiness in everything. It may not always go my way, but right now I choose to have faith that any change in my path will only lead me to what is best for me. 

One conversation I had with a friend of mine had been about how the days felt like they have been passing by differently. It’s like the days were blurring or fading into one another in a way that I felt like I didn't know where I was anymore, time-wise.

My friend asked if it was a bad kind of blur or a good one. Was it the kind of blur where I was keeping myself busy and filling my head with too much stuff to numb myself from acknowledging how I was not happy? The kind where I was keeping busy just for the sake of it? Or was it the kind of blur where I was too busy doing the things that I loved that I did not notice the passage of time? According to my friend, if it was the latter (which it was), then it was OK. “As long as you are happy, it’s a good thing. That is what's important.” 

I’m not saying that I won’t or don’t have any low points anymore. I still do. Those thoughts telling me to give up, telling me what is wrong with my life? They still pop up from time to time. I’m just learning to deal with them better. I’m learning to choose happiness, to seek happiness where I can, and to make my peace of mind a priority. To go after the things that make me happy. I choose to allow myself to be happy and to take care of myself. To put myself first, something that has always been a challenge for me to do.

There will always be good days and there will be bad. But I choose to remember that change is a constant thing, and that bad days won’t be bad forever. And that sometimes, our lowest points are preparing us for greater things to come. That those moments are there to mold us into better people for the even better future that lies ahead for us. And that sometimes, the days that we considered to be bad were not as terrible as we initially thought they were. Maybe we are experiencing things that we will survive from in order to help other people who will go through the same thing. 

I do not claim to be an expert in mental health. Like I said before, I have had my struggles in the past. I may be OK now but it doesn't mean that I won't struggle with it in the future. One thing I do know is that I want to do my best to continue to grow and to learn from my experiences and hope that it changes me for the better.

Right now, I am happy. Things are not perfect, but I am happy nevertheless. I may not have everything that I want, but there is still so much to be grateful for and look forward to. The possibilities are endless. And as long as I am alive, I know I can still work on making my life better today than it was yesterday. Every new day is an opportunity to learn, grow, be better, and do better. Every day is a new day to live and I will do what I can to make the best of it.


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