On Choosing Happiness

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” – Audre Lorde

This was the quote we presented to our 12-14 year old girls in the literacy workshop on Tuesday. We told them to read it and think about what it meant to them. We then asked them to spend 20 minutes drawing out their interpretation of the quote. I sat there drawing with colored pencils and then it was time to share. I shared my picture – a thought bubble above a half oval that was supposed to be my head with everything I could think of that defines me – camp, Michigan, my CASC minor, my work with prisons and young people, my family, my three tattoos, travel, etc. Each of the girls took turns sharing next. One girl’s explanation of her drawing astonished me. She’s a fairly quiet girl and she was never one to open up in front of the group. She had drawn herself on a basketball court. “Leana*, can you tell us what your drawing is and how it relates to the quote?” This 12-year-old girl goes into explaining how when she is on the court, it doesn’t matter if she was nervous before or if anything bad is happening in her life – the basketball court makes her feel powerful. “When I play basketball, I feel happy. And when I am happy, I am powerful and being happy makes me brave.”

I had to repeat that a few times to myself before I realized how utterly deep that is. “Being happy makes me brave.” My drive home that day was spent reflecting on this sentence that Leana said about her drawing. Why do I spend so much time being so afraid to try things – especially things that I know will bring me joy? I thought about the times I gave up time with my friends because I was afraid to see someone or scared that I would say something wrong. Since Tuesday, I have made more of an effort to focus on doing things that make me happy: taking more breaks from my applications to watch an episode on Netflix or have coffee with a friend, sacrificing that one-hour nap to see my friend who always knows just what to say when I’m stressed, etc.

So I am vowing to focus on my happiness – on shifting that focus I have on constantly pleasing others to what is pleasing to me. I will not let fear decide for me, because fear does not control me. I control myself. I will be happier because I choose to be.

choose-to-be-happy*Name changed to preserve identity of youth



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