That Time You Hated Positivity In Your Thirties

Have you ever had someone say “cheer up” or “smile” to you? Did it annoy you at the time?

Have you ever wondered why you can’t constantly be happy and peaceful? Why do circumstances always come at you and change your happy perspective for a bit? Why can’t you get back that peace you felt a minute ago or yesterday or last week or last year?

I used to think, “all I want is to be strong all the time. And I feel strong when I’m positive and happy. So I want to be positive and happy all the time. I wish I could figure out how to always be peaceful and happy every moment of every day.”

Or I’d think, “I don’t know how so-and-so does it. He/She seems so peaceful/happy/blessed/lucky all the time on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. How is He/She always so happy/magical/overjoyed in His/Her status updates? If only I could be stronger, I could hold onto this kind of happiness/blessedness/unicorn-ness all the time!”

The older I get, the more I have moments of clarity about this kind of happiness and strength. I actually think that true strength doesn’t lie in holding onto smiles and cheer all the time, but in recognizing that feelings come and go in waves. And waves go both up and down.

The other day, I was saying to a friend of mine “I just want to be strong, and I’ve been so happy lately. But today I feel shaken by outside circumstances, and I can’t hold onto the strength I felt yesterday. What do I do?” But as I said it, I realized that in a way I was stronger than ever. And I didn’t really need to do anything. I’ve begun to recognize the waves and ride them, even when they’re occasionally jarring and scary.

Constant happy-joy-joy positivity, especially on social media, annoys me because it seems fake. There’s a notion that ‘putting on a happy face all the time’ is the absolute best thing to do. I don’t really agree.

Not that I think being negative is good. But as I enter my thirties, I think the best spot to be is ‘positive but honest.’ You can still be positive and admit you’re scared. You can still be positive and feel weak. You can still be positive and cry. And you can also be positive and happy.

Life happens. Circumstances outside you happen. It’s okay to admit they get to you sometimes.

Ironically, the more you can ride the low feelings and let them be, the better you’ll ride the high…and the happier you’ll be anyway.

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The Happy Shuttle Driver

When I got on the FlyAway Shuttle to LAX this morning, I was greeted by an incredibly friendly, happy driver. He immediately started talking about growing up in LA, his love of driving, his nine uber-close siblings, and his passion for motorcycles.

There was a lot of talk of pranks played as children, precocious brothers and sisters, and flying home for the holidays. I laughed so hard I nearly cried as he told story after zany story.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, the driver said, in the same even tone of voice he’d been using before, ‘My two best friends just died.’

I jerked my head hard as if I’d been slapped. The comment was completely out of nowhere. “Oh god- I’m so sorry!” I said. There was a silence. I squirmed. I didn’t want to pry.

He opened up without me asking. “We were all part of a motorcycle group. We did daredevil stunts and jumps and all kinds of tricks that most motorcyclists won’t do. Then one day we went to a motorcycle meet, and I was watching as my friend pulled his motorcycle out of the garage. A drunk driver came by and hit him then, and he was dead on the spot. He was just pulling out of the garage..”

“Oh my god,” I said. I didn’t know what to say. “That’s horrible.”

“Yeah. It wasn’t even the motorcycle that got him killed. It was a drunk driver.” He paused for a second, and then continued in the same even tone, “the other one too. My other best friend…hit by a drunk driver. I was actually working my shift at the time, driving the FlyAway Shuttle, and I looked over into the lane next to me. For his birthday, I’d given my friend a pair of sneakers he’d wanted, as a gift. And I looked over that day. And I saw a sneaker, the same sneaker…all alone, all by itself. And I wasn’t able to stop and see anything other than that sneaker, but I found out later. My friend had been cycling down the freeway, and a drunk driver started going the wrong direction. My friend swerved and was thrown from the bike. He still had one sneaker on. He died, and I just happened to drive by right then. It was too late. Both of them hit by drunk drivers.”

I was heartbroken. How was it that underneath this man’s happy exterior was the darkest, most earth-shattering sadness? And before we got to LAX, he continued his stories, telling me he’d been a shuttle driver for over 10 years and that he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. “It’s good,” he said, “It keeps my mind off the hard things. It’s very good to be distracted.” And he smiled.

We arrived at the airport and bid our farewells. I’m shaken by the deep pain hidden under his smiling stories. Shaken by his love of his job for the saddest of reasons…and if the shuttle ride had been just a bit shorter, I would never have known.

You never know what people have going on under their happy, smiling exteriors.

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