"Take It Where You Can Get It" Alex Chooses Joy

One of my best friends got married last weekend (on 4/20 no less!), and I got to be his best man. Granted, I was the sole person from “back home,” but we do have a lot of history behind our friendship. We’ve known each other in varying capacities since 2012: we’ve fought over petty shit, we’ve cried on each other’s shoulders, and we’ve had the incredible privilege of maintaining a healthy relationship for the last three years. I’m constantly reminded of how worthwhile sticking through a relationship can be, and I am inspired by my friends. My friends, and the people I keep close, keep me grounded. They bring me joy.

At the risk of sounding obvious or campy, I realized in the last year or so that sitting in a place of negativity can, and likely will be, debilitating and dehumanizing. Particularly for a person like myself who can’t help but ruminate, the current state of things in the world in which we live can be incredibly bleak. There are days when I wake up and I am frustrated to no end that my skin color represents a horrifying history built upon the backs of people of color--a guilt that imposes itself on how I treat or don’t treat my close friends of color. I walk through Seattle University’s campus and I witness the large and small injustices that exist simply by being a student, and I’m painfully aware that I experience immense privileges that many can’t even afford to dream of. How can I rationalize my own frustrations and what I feel to be legitimate problems when I see marginalized, displaced folks come into my workplace, or on my college campus, or on a walk through a park on a daily basis? This, in combination with my own anxieties and emotional/mental inadequacies, leaves me conflicted by my own problems. This has been the state of things for me and, in total honesty, it has become a major source of the depressive episodes I find myself going through and processing (or failing to process).

What do you do with that? When it comes to the topic of my whiteness, I have more often than not chosen to silence and sedate myself to my own issues. I have said this many times and I will say it again: we do not need another cisgender, white, American male’s opinion because that’s all we’ve heard in this country. People like me take up space where we shouldn’t, and I have chosen to combat this by silencing myself. This plays into my life socially, as many of the people I keep close to me are people of color. In deeply gratifying and humbling ways, my friends of color have expanded my worldview and allowed me to experience more than I ever experienced in the safe, privileged, white existence I could have chosen for myself. That shit would have been “safe” for someone like me, but I do not want to be in a space that isn’t representative of the world we live in. When I put myself into the shoes of another, I begin to see and understand those experiences that are inherently different from my own. But, because of my internal conflict of feeling unable and unjustified in dealing with my own issues by worrying about and comparing them to the issues of others, this can be debilitating. And dehumanizing. It is a self-inflicted, confusing mess, and I don’t want to silence myself. But I haven’t been able to click into place the way I want to move forward.

I have come to a potential idea, and it’s a simple one: I want to choose empathy and compassion above all else, and at the same time, I want to redirect some of that care and love toward myself. I don’t want to feel the need to question my emotions, my reactions, and my heart. I don’t want to question what brings me happiness and what breaks my spirit--and whether or not it’s warranted or justified. What makes me happy is supporting my friends and my loved ones. That doesn’t need to happen in self-inflicted silence. When my friend announced to me that he was engaged, I didn’t feel a need to question the matter of age (he’s 21) within the context of what it means to get married. Our culture tells us that marriage is this huge, important thing that requires time to come to. Why would anyone need to question my friend’s choice to get married, and how does an outside opinion factor into how and why we experience joy? Why would the joy of others ever need to come into question? And what kind of existence would I be living to question my own joy?

 

So fuck that. I know that happiness can be fleeting and, at times, simply ephemeral or out of grasp, and that’s alright. When I truly feel like trash, I have that “wake up” moment; I remind myself to think differently as best I can. Moving forward, I no longer want to get caught up in the conflict of “I should not speak because I’m a white guy--we don’t need a white guy’s voice.” I want my voice to be heard because I am Alex, and because I feel that I have something important and different to offer. No experience is the same for everyone, and my joy comes from finding understanding and compassion in the experience of another. Because I want it, I choose joy, no matter where it comes from. And admittedly, I might be writing about this to keep myself accountable. Or to vent about what’s on my mind as I’m flying from Chicago back home. Or maybe it’s neither--but the process makes me happy, and I’m going to take joy where I can get it.

P.S. If you ever need somewhere to start choosing joy for yourself, I made a really happy playlist. It is what it sounds like--I hope you’re smiling today and always.