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Thursday, December 02, 2021

Smile without shame: don’t feel guilty for being happy

Upon returning from Thanksgiving Break, I went through the typical receiving line of friends asking about each other’s brief holiday. Despite being excited to return to campus and share some of the funny stories from my week at home, I quickly realized many of my conversations and the conversations of others revolved around things that went wrong over break: getting stuck in traffic, catching a cold, feeling stressed about final projects — the list goes on.

More often than not, we complain when we don’t have anything else to say. If there’s a lull in the conversation, complaining about the weather or how much work we have to do before the end of the semester are reliable-but-boring talking points. “How are you?” often leads to sigh-filled responses like “tired” or “busy.”

The reality is that everyone — especially in the college environment — is likely stressed about something, whether it’s related to academics, a living situation, family or navigating the next move after graduation. We could all definitely use more sleep. We all have things to do and uncertainties on our mind. But in a culture where so many of our conversations are centered around complaints, how do we escape the negativity and allow ourselves to celebrate and truly, honestly feel and accept when we are happy?

For one thing, I think it’s important to recognize that it’s OK to be content, even amid a college environment where busy = successful = happy. I think it’s also easy for many students to feel a sort of happiness guilt, or a feeling that we aren’t “allowed” to be happy or excited or to look forward to something — perhaps due to expectations that fulfillment stems from overachievement, or if the people around us aren’t exactly onboard our same happiness train.

After all, there’s something off-putting about wanting to share something overly positive, like an exciting moment, a funny story or an achievement, when the people around us aren’t exactly on the same page because we don’t want to come across as “braggy” or inconsiderate.

However, though so many people bond over commiserating — which is perhaps just human nature — there are times when we complain or take on a negative tone simply to match the feelings of those around us, maybe in an attempt to be more empathetic or relatable.

I think we should remember it’s still possible to be an understanding and supportive friend without fueling the fire in complaint-filled conversations. Just by listening to those around us and letting them know we’re there for them — and knowing they would do the same for us — is a way to show support without throwing ourselves on a mutual complaint-clad bandwagon.

Plus, how refreshing would it be if instead of throwing blanket-statement complaints in our conversations just for the sake of not knowing what else to say, we actually admit or share when and why we’re happy (and when we’re not)?

There’s a lot at stake for so many of us as we think about our next moves — whether it’s looking toward future semesters or new phases of our lives — but that doesn’t mean we should feel ashamed for being happy in the moment or excited about something to come. And if the people we surround ourselves with can’t celebrate our triumphs, maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about what they think of us anyway.

Darcy Schild is a UF journalism senior. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

 

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