“Megan, don’t let this ruin your whole day. You can choose how you’re going to feel about something. You decide your day.” My mom would often say this to me in the morning when I was little. “I can’t! Dad ruined it!” I would retort, referring of course to my dad’s method of waking me up: flipping on the light and tearing off the covers. I was convinced that since I woke up to a cold, entirely too bright room, that the rest of my day would surely be ruined. As far as I was concerned, my day had a black mark on it already; there was no hope for the rest of the day—surely it would follow in the same pattern.
As often as my mother would share with me that life lesson, I guess I began to start believing it. I started experimenting with maintaining a positive attitude. I realized I could have all sorts of success. When my siblings would tease me, I learned to brush it off. When my dad would rip the covers off in the morning, I learned to get dressed quickly so I wasn’t cold anymore. Eventually, I learned I ought to just get myself up so my dad didn’t have to. My dad was happy he didn’t have to wake me up, and I was happy that I got to wake up how I pleased. Things still bothered me through the course of the day, but I started waiting for important things to stress over rather than every tiny, minute detail. I preferred being happy and energetic, and I found others preferred me that way too.
My freshman year of high school, somehow my mother’s advice was forgotten. As much as I would fake it when I was around my friends, I couldn’t manage to keep my happy, energetic feeling on the inside. Though there was nothing unreasonably dark hanging over my life to be upset with, I seemed to be in a bad mood all the time. I was frustrated and angry and I didn’t like it.
One day, my mother’s morning pep talk popped into my head. I guess I had forgotten that only I get to decide my emotions. I started, once again listening to her seemingly unbearably simple advice. Sure enough, I got a grip on my life. I started looking for the good in a situation, and finding something to be happy about.
I’m not a cartoon character. I still feel emotions and get upset about things. But I’ve learned that I believe happiness is a choice. No matter how much you have to be stressed, worried, or angry about, there’s always something to be happy about, and I believe happiness is the better alternative. I’ve been down. I didn’t like it. So I didn’t stay there.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.