The Pursuit of Happiness

Lauren - Louisville, Kentucky
Entered on December 11, 2008

When it comes to matters such as love and hate, it is important that people try to make lemonade out of life’s lemons. Typically, the more optimistic someone is about their circumstances, the more they take away from them. If someone asked if I would go back in time to change any aspect of my life, my answer would be “no” without hesitation. I have experienced many heartaches and emotional strife over the years. I have had my fair share of ups and downs but through it all my skin has gotten stronger. I have been put through many obstacles that have molded me into the young lady I am today. If I were to dwell on all of my failures, I would have never recognized the success I’ve achieved along the way. But because I believe that life is too short to be anything but happy, I try to stay optimistic while living life on the bright side.

In January of 2007, my parents told my sister and me that they were getting a divorce. My parents called both my sister and I into their room, and I knew something was wrong when I saw both of them sitting in an upright position on opposite sides of the bed. My dad tried to contain his tears, but couldn’t help but let them go as he solemnly told us that they had decided to separate. Up until that point, my family was known as a black version of the Brady Bunch. We were the family that regularly ate together and prayed together. We were the family that piled into the same bed discussing the previous week’s events, and shared what was coming up in each of our lives. We were the family that was supportive of one another no matter what the situation was.

My mother and father were together for twenty-one years, and so it completely broke my heart for them not to be together anymore. That same day I watched my dad from the bathroom window upstairs load some of his belongings into the trunk of his car. He took a drawn out look at the home that held the previous seventeen years of memories created and shared by the ones he loved most. He shook his head, dropped it, and got in his car and left. Before leaving, my dad called me to him, gave me a heart-felt hug, kissed me on my forehead, and told me he loved me. That moment was bitter sweet for me. I can probably count the number of times that I remember my dad telling me he loved me, but it was sad that it took a moment like that for him to verbally express his feelings.

Days later, I began writing, trying to unmask some of the hurt that I was feeling. What started out as a free write, ended up as a letter to my father. I told him how much I loved him, and how thankful I was to have a father like him, who may not have always said it, but constantly showed his love and support for me.

My mom was actually the one who decided that she wanted a divorce. She and I had had numerous talks prior to the announcement about how unhappy she was, and I actually encouraged her to follow her heart regardless of what situation it put my sister and me in. Although saying that to her was difficult, I would have much rather my mom live the rest of her life with someone that can put a genuine smile on her face, rather than stay with someone who was “safe.”

Even though expected, I was initially angered by their separation for my own selfish reasons. I wondered how other people would view us. We would no longer be the idealistic family, and I was not only tired, but also embarrassed of telling people why my parents no longer sat together at my basketball games, or why we never went to church together anymore. However after getting over that phase, I began to see another side of my father that I wasn’t accustomed to seeing. He became more compassionate and caring towards my sister and me. I could actually have a conversation with him about guys and relationships, and get his opinion on aspects of my life. I always thought that the reason I saw our relationship transform so quickly was because he felt that he would lose my sister and I too, if he didn’t change.

It still saddens me when I think about the history of my family. It is almost two years later, and I still have days where I reminisce and can do nothing but cry. But then I quickly think about the joy that gleams through on both my mother and fathers faces in their current relationships. I have never seen either one of them so happy. While at the time, I did not understand or favor her decision, I fully understand now that although our family was broken, in the long run, my mom hoped that what she was doing was best. In their case, she had to put aside what made my sister and I happy, and rather put more focus on if she would be satisfied with the rest of her life. I do not fault my mom for her decision because her happiness was most important.

At this point in my life, I try not to question God or the trials and tribulations that he presents me with, and rather thank Him for putting enough faith in me to weather the storms. I have been broken-down, betrayed, and belittled by multiple people during my youth. But through the struggle and pain, I have made it. I believe that most of my success is due to my optimism that I showcase in my circumstances. I have been doubted time and time again, but I refuse to let anyone get in the way of my happiness.

I am Lauren Camille Payne. I am 18 years old, and am in college. I was told I wouldn’t make it this far, but look at me now. My parents are divorced, and I am finally at peace with that. This is me. No apologies. No regrets. I am no longer ashamed of who I am, and I would not trade my life for the world. I am the happiest I have ever been because after all, life is too short to be anything but happy.