It’s can be easy to end up feeling guilty for being in a state of of joy when you know that people in other countries have had their lives turned upside down. How do we balance joy and tragedy?
I think the answer is that we don’t.
I used to think to think that you needed to be in a place of feeling what the other people were feeling to be able to show care and support for what they were going through.
But there’s this idea that I’ve seen come up a few times, about how it doesn’t really benefit anyone for you to be in a deep place of sadness or feel guilt for your own joy because of what might be happening in various places across the world.
I think sometimes this idea gets twisted into this thing of people not caring which is unfortunate. For me it just means that you don’t have to tailor your feelings to align with the tragedies of the world and you don’t need to put your happiness aside. It’s okay to have your moments of joy.
There is this idea about writers, infact it applies to creatives in general. The idea is that our best work comes from a place of negative experience that serves as the poker that stokes our flames of creativity.
I enjoy writing about being a writer, mainly because it’s a title I struggle to attach to myself as a blogger. However, here in this space where all I do is write, I suppose I am a writer.
There are all these ideas about the way that writers should be and it’s strange that we cling to them, even the negative ones.
A common one is the idea of the tortured writer. For them the writing process is like some sort of possession where it takes over and you have no choice but to sit and write until you are possessed no more.
I used to carry the belief that the best work or at least the best of my own work had to come from a place of sadness, anger or frustration. It’s not that I looked for those things but I found myself happy to use experiences that brought on those emotions as opportunities to write something.
Then one day after catching up with a dear friend, I left with a full heart and inspiration to write. When I started to write, the words poured out with such great ease like they have so many times before. the only difference was that this time I was full of joy.
In that moment, I realised that I had debunked the myths that I had once believed about myself as a writer.
There’s something quite wonderful about being a beginner, starting something new with fresh eyes, optimism, excitement and curiosity.
There are probably plenty of things that you’ve been doing for a long time to the point that they’re a regular part of your daily, weekly or monthly routine. It could be old hobbies from childhood or a job that you’re just so familiar with that the joy has been taken out of it.
It could even be what you want thought was your dream job but because you’re doing it all the time and you’re so used to it doesn’t really feel like a dream anymore. Now it’s actually just your reality.
Sometimes, we get the job that we want and maybe we’re even living in our ideal home in our ideal location. We feel settled in life so we stop exploring. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but if you’re putting aside your curiosity and yearning then maybe something needs to change. The feeling of wanting to explore life probably won’t just go without you tending to it.
The reason we don’t tend to it is often because we allow societal standards and ideas to restrict us. We end up feeling like it’s too late to try something new because we’re a certain age or it feels like it’ll be a step back. It’s no use holding on to those ideas if they just make you unhappy.
The desire to explore could be as small as reading a genre of fiction you wouldn’t usually be open to or joining a local volunteering group. It doesn’t have to be about quitting your job to start a business. selling all your belongings and travelling around Asia for 6 months.
Outside of all the things you’re obligated or committed to do, how much time do you spend on your interests?
It’s easy to be dedicated to your career because doing so often comes with rewards like praise, promotions and a pay rise. It’s easy to spend time on your ‘side hustle’ because doing so will hopefully bring it closer to being your main hustle.
But when it comes to your interests like neoplasticism, poetry and hand embroidery sometimes it can feel difficult to make the time when you don’t directly get anything back from it.
As much as your interests bring you great joy, they don’t don’t always come with specific tanigble rewards. And so if you find that you’re not making time for them, you may need to remind yourself why were interested in them the first place.
I think that what we do for a living matters. When you have to wake up everyday and do something that you don’t enjoy, interact with people you don’t agree with, work late to meet deadlines and give your time and energy to work that you don’t care about, maybe you should be doing something else.
I think we’re lucky that we’re liberated enough to have some choice about what we do. We have options. We have the opportunity to change our lives if we’re not happy with where we’re at.
And so here are some reasons to quit your job and move on to something better:
- You no longer enjoy it
- It requires more than you’re willing to give
- You could get paid more at another company
- You’re constantly saying you want to quit
- You want to change careers
It could be considered strange that we know that life is finite yet we choose to focus so much on the things that bring us the least joy.
We spend our time doing things that take us further and further from our core selves and then wonder why there is so much emptiness within.
Often we choose to try and enjoy life from the perception of outsiders. We focus on doing things that will look good to other people rather than simply trying to please ourselves. And it’s not that you do things that make you miserable but that you place the perception of others above your own joy.
It could be choosing to do something because you know that other people will be impressed or even jealous. Meanwhile you’d have been much happier doing something else.
But all that stuff about other people doesn’t matter as much you might think it does. It feels important because you choose to make it so. When it comes to enjoying your life focus on you, the things that you like and the things that bring you joy.
If you spend too much time focusing on the wrong thing, you’ll miss out on the chance to enjoy the moment.
Of course you never want to push aside or dismiss problems that need to be solved or worries that feel important but they don’t have to always be a priority.
There will always be 101 things you can worry about but you don’t need to always worry.
As much as you make time for that, make time for the stuff that makes you feel good and just enjoy the moment.
You convince yourself that you have to work hard, overcome struggle and become something else in order to ‘make it’. Then once you make it you’ll be happy.
Perhaps it would be considered childish or silly but what if you could just enjoy life, right now.
Is it possible that you can be joyful without overcoming great hurdles or becoming successful in the eyes of the world.
It’s not that you should have no dreams or aspirations in life because those things are great. The issue is that we place our happiness in those things, in money, a big house and luxury items. We put conditions on our happiness.
We aspire to be happy instead of just being happy.
There is always so much emphasis on the work, on dedicating your time, effort and energy. There are quotes like the grind don’t stop or I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with working hard, being dedicated and focusing on making money or building something (as in a non-physical thing like community).
But what about fun?
When was the last time you consciously set time aside to do something for fun, to make yourself laugh and bring a little joy into your life. The work, your work is great and it matters but it doesn’t have to be your whole life.
And the fun can be short and free, in fact it’s better that way. It could be watching Key and Peele skits on YouTube, having a solo dance party or maybe baking cupcakes.
As much as the work matters, there is also so much more to life that you might end up missing out on when you don’t make time for fun.
Last year there were lots of discussions, tweets and conversations about how we’re in a pandemic, you don’t need to do xyz it’s totally okay if all you did was survive.
The thing is, of course you don’t need to do anything new or different with your time. That statement has always been true. But if you want to and if you feel like you can, why not choose to do something new?
And even if you don’t feel like it, even if you’re anxious and overwhelmed maybe trying 10 minutes of aerobics or a breath work exercise might actually help.
I think learning or doing something new during a period where you have more free time than usual is a great idea.
The reason for this is whether you sit around passively watching YouTube all day or try out a couple of new recipes every week, the same amount of time has still gone by.
You don’t need to force yourself to do things you don’t want to do, pick something that you will enjoy.
And you don’t need to use up all your free time, it could be 20 minutes of meditation each day or a few hours a week doing an online course.
You don’t need to post about it online and it doesn’t make you better than others because you’ve now started a successful business or have perfected the crème brûlée.
The focus should be on how you feel about the way that you’re choosing to live and the way that you’re spending your time.