Photo courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales

Grief. It affects us all, in some form or another. Unless you pass through life in a catatonic state, it’s going to hit you someday, and you will be completely blindsided. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, or a particularly nasty breakup, or even breaking a nail (I don’t know, it could be a really nice nail…), pain is inevitable. Life is pain. Anyone who says different…. *Ahem.*

The point is, everyone hurts. It’s how you deal with it that makes you who you are. I’ve had people tell me that everyone deals with pain differently, and while that may be true to some extent, I don’t entirely believe it. Just from my experience, there are certain modes people fall back upon to deal with grief. Some people deal with it using drugs or alcohol. Some fall into depression. Some people take it out on other people. Some just stop living.

There are the people who use it for good, who take their grief and turn it into something that helps others, and then there are the people on the opposite end of the spectrum who take it and hold onto it, using it as an excuse for their bitterness and lash out at anyone and everyone who comes near them. And then there are the people who take the pain and box it up, or laugh it off so they don’t become one of those bitter people. And the majority probably deal with pain in some mixture of all of the above.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t the type of grief that makes someone who they are. There are the people who have gone through more pain than anyone should ever have to experience, who are a joy to be around, who have grieved and while they may still hurt, have for whatever reason decided to not to let that pain end their life. And then there are the people who take every hurt and use it as an excuse to be miserable. To wait for happiness to happen to them, and then make everyone else around them suffer when it doesn’t.

But I’m going to tell you, right here and now, that happiness isn’t something that happens to you. It’s something you have to make for yourself. You can’t live your life thinking, “oh, well when I get that promotion,” or “any minute the right man is going to come along, and then I can really start living my life,” because, if you wait, you’re going to be waiting forever. There will always be greener grass somewhere, and I’m sorry to tell you this, but life isn’t perfect. In fact, most of the time, it sucks. Happiness is not something that happens to you. It’s a choice.

So make the choice to be happy. Make the choice to say, “okay, I know bad things are going to happen, and it’s going to hurt. But I’m going to deal with them, and I’m not going to let pain and anger control the way I live my life.” I know it’s a cliché, but the fake-it-’til-you-make-it slogan is true. You can wake up and say, “I’m going to put on a happy face and go out there and make the world a better place. I’m not going to let the pain ruin my life.”

This is one of those things I learned the hard way. But I’ve made it my goal, and although I know I fail often, I’m still doing my best to not be a miserable person. I want to be one of those people whom other people look at and go, “see her? She’s gone through so much, but she’s an amazing person to be around. There’s just something about her—I feel good when she’s there.”

Like I said, I fail often. But I’m trying. I’m learning to control what comes out of my mouth—harsh things, complaining, making other people feel bad—those are things that I don’t want people to associate with me. And I know I fail at that in multiple ways.

But I also can see myself improving. And I can see when other people choose to live life for what it is, and I can see the people who resent everything that happens to them, feeling as if nothing is ever good enough. I want to be the former.

So choose to be happy. If you don’t make changes on the inside, nothing’s going to happen on the outside. Trust me.

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