The Joy of the Unexpected

Date: 2024-01-29

I've had clinical depression for ten years now, with no sign of it lightening up. It's something I have to live with. Oftentimes, I tell myself lies like, "I never feel joy. It's always been bad. I'll forever be stuck in life."

But, I have a trick that makes me feel better. It fills me with a bit of wonder. Something will happen in my day, and I tell myself, "Wow, I didn't know waking up this morning that that would happen!" For example, I didn't know waking up this morning that I would be writing this blog post. How exciting! Two months ago, I woke up and didn't know that I would be getting a piercing later that day. One month ago, I didn't know waking up that my sister in law would be announcing the pregnancy of a new nephew. What a fundamental change in life. Two weeks ago, I didn't know waking up that I would be giving myself a much needed haircut. A week ago, I didn't know waking up that my dad would surprise me with a donut and coffee. Two days ago, I didn't know waking up that I would have an extremely meaningful conversation with my aunt that would recontextualize how I view our family. Yesterday, I didn't know waking up that I would stumble upon an exciting, innovative website, and an equally exciting blog post that would change the way I view the world.

Life's unexpected joys can look like anything. My joys may not be your joys. Still, I think it's so magical that each day, despite set routines and rituals, is uncertain and unpredictable. Some days I do not want to be alive, but I am often grateful for each new experience I get to have by virtue of still being here.

Some of these examples are conscious choices I made, usually congruent with my personality, but it's like each action is a gift and an act of love to myself. Getting piercings is a celebration of my bodily autonomy and a way to express myself. Each time I cut my hair, it's such a beautiful and significant thing. It signifies change, and a release of negative energy. I can celebrate because things are different than they used to be. My parents don't give me grief over my hair anymore– one of the perks of being an adult, I guess. I can cut my hair myself, instead of going somewhere and getting a cut I didn't want. (It seems many of us as kids asked for gender-affirming, masculine haircuts and instead recieved something more akin to a feminine bob or pixie cut). I'm finally able to express myself through my hair, have it reflect how I feel internally, and aid in a more masculine presentation.

I really dislike it when people give the advice, "Find the beauty in life." Ugh. (Don't tell me what to do!) I hear this advice so often that it starts to lose meaning. It feels almost dismissive of my struggles. Like, geez, I have a disorder that expressly makes it difficult to see the beauty in life. How can I see the beauty when I'm so blinded by my suffering and just trying to survive? I think, too, it can border on toxic positivity. That if you just look for the good in the world, if you just try hard enough, then your depression will be cured. Still, I think it's worthy advice in the right context. I just have to go about it in my own way. I am able to do that by recognizing the novelty and small developments in my life. Something that once didn't exist now exists.

I think recognizing all the unexpected moments of joy is a salve to feeling stuck and apathetic in life. I often put so much focus on anticipating all the bad things that may happen, but I never plan for the unexpected; it's simply impossible. Really, all it takes is one event to completely change your life; that change could be welcomed or detrimental, freeing or devastating, and it's totally out of our control. Regardless, the unexpected joys and life developments show that things can and do change.