Remembering the ‘little things’ when the world seems bleak

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When I think of happiness, I think of Disney World. It’s cliché — I know. But for me, traditions, imagination, fun and laughter are all forever tied to the man and his mouse.

Every other year since I was four, my dad’s family has taken a big trip to Disney as a sort of reunion. We all live in different places across the country, so there are very few times when we can actually get everyone together. Every trip is a little different — new people, new babies, new significant others, new rides, new memories — but every trip is magical.

For me, this is a concrete happiness in my life, and those are not easy to come by, so I hold on tight. I think in today’s world it is really easy to find ways to be angry and sad and anxious, but a lot of times we forget to be happy.

Emotions are not goals; they are feelings no different from hunger or fatigue. We are not meant to be happy 24/7, and when we look at happiness as a life goal, we miss out on the journey. We miss the little moments in life that make us laugh, that make us happy to be alive. We miss acknowledging the important of moments.

Take for example this Thanksgiving break. I always go into breaks with a lot of expectations that usually do not work out in my favor. This break I had plans to see all these friends I had not seen since the summer, hanging out with them all night, doing wild teenage things, but in reality, I spent a lot of time at home watching Gilmore Girls. It is easy for me to look back on this break and say it was awful, but I would be discrediting some amazing memories.

I got to see my family on Thanksgiving and eat some incredible food, and I saw the movie “Moana,” which lit up my life as most things Disney do. I had a blast spending way too much money on Friday in honor of my favorite consumerist holiday, and I got to celebrate my step-grandma’s 90th birthday on Saturday in true “Kelly” fashion. I heard stories of the time said 90-year-old grandma got “absolutely smashed” when she was younger, and I had way too much fun playing board games with my best friend and her family late into Saturday night. And on Sunday, my half-sister was born.

These were moments. These were not big life events that shape my life trajectory; they were small events that made me happy. The discrediting of small joyous moments is what leads us to see the world through a cynical lens, and I do not think we realize how destructive that is.

Yes, 2016 was a pretty rough year. A lot of people are really angry with the current state of our nation. People are dying, refugees are suffering and racial and religious divides are all too present. There is sadness is our hearts, and there is anger in our souls, and it is easy to take these things and pretend that the year was awful and not a single good thing came from it. It makes the narrative more seamless, but it is not true.

We cannot live our lives like this. As the holidays approach us — whatever those holidays might mean for you — it is a perfect time to stop and think about the things that made you happy this past year, or even in each passing day. There is something about a well-decorated house, street or town that makes it so easy to smile. Even though there is a lot of negativity surrounding the consumerist values of Christmas, there is an undeniable light that shines through the cold and darkness.

It is a perfect time to feel happy, to acknowledge the funny little things that make us laugh throughout the day. It is also, undeniably, time to feel cold, to feel humbled and to feel loss though as well.

So what do we do? It starts with remembering to smile when we feel the urge. Talk about the thing that makes you upset, even if that thing is the election, and if you think everyone in the world is done talking about it, trust me — they are not. Look back over the year and try to remember something to be grateful for. I firmly believe that finding even just one little thing can redeem so much hate and sadness in our hearts. And finally, enjoy moments of happiness. Do not look just for happiness, do not aspire for happiness, do not discredit happiness. Radiate it.