I spent a lot of my teenage years wishing I could just be happy. All the time, I felt sadness and frustration and despair. I didn’t have friends who lived near me. I didn’t have many close friends at all. That has remained a constant in my life, but I have learned how to be happy at least. 

Not all the time, of course. That would be silly. Happiness would lose its meaning if it were a constant state. But I can choose to look at the world through a positive lens now. I can choose to find something to be happy about. I can reject the sadness that used to overwhelm me at times. 

My husband mentioned the other day that he hasn’t met anyone else who self analyzes quite as much as I do. I like to look at myself and my actions and try to figure out why I did what I did. Sometimes that’s a negative thing to do; it can lead to a spiral of guilt and self-recrimination. But I’ve learned over the years how to calm that critical inner voice. 

The voice isn’t gone, but it’s a lot quieter than it used to be. It used to be a much larger monster, one that spoke whether I wanted it to or not. Over the years, I’ve worked on slaying that monster, taking away its energy source, not feeding it. Many repetitions of the mantra, “I do not like the way this makes me feel,” helped me to reduce the monster’s food source. And the thought that if I were to hear someone talk to a friend of mine the way I was speaking to myself, I would be angry as hell at that person. Why should I treat myself in a way I wouldn’t let anyone treat my friends? 

In my niece, I see similarities to myself at that age. We are, outwardly, very different. She is tall, while I am short. I love to read, while she is dyslexic. She’s more outgoing than I am, in some ways more confident, especially in the city and with technology. But I think there are aspects of her inner life that remind me of myself at that age. 

I wish I could give her a shortcut. A faster way to get from the wreckage of the teen years to the happiness that I’ve found. But I know it’s hard to see through that fog. And if you want to get out, you need to see that there’s an out to get. To see that there are possibilities waiting for you in the future. Possible futures that include things you could never imagine. 

Like being happy. 

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