My favorite fireworks show was in 2012.
That day was a happy one. A life-changing one.
It was my first trip abroad. I was in Nimes, France on Bastille Day. We were pulling into the city, which was covered in darkness. We were tired, paying little attention to anything outside our own dreams and tired eyes.
The bus came to a halt, lurching all passengers forward into consciousness. When I looked out the windows into this new place I had never seen, there were people walking in masses everywhere, young children perched on their father’s shoulders, people hand in hand with their loved ones.
Then explosions erupted. We all got off the bus to see fireworks exploding in the sky above the dark facade of the Nimes Colisseum. It was the most beautiful thing I had seen.
I had been in France for four days already. That moment reminded me of where I was, what I was seeing, how I had been manifesting moments like these for most of my childhood. I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
Staring at the sky, I thought about how fireworks could make someone so happy, no matter who you were or where you were in the world. While overwhelmed with my own thoughts, one of my favorite professors came up beside me.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” She said so simply.
I started crying, working to hold back the tears. I had enough strength to choke out a “yeah,” and she could hear my unsuccessfully stifled sobs.
That’s when she pulled me into her side and hugged me.
Ever since then, I have very much loved fireworks.
Who knew the childlike happiness gained from fireworks would disappear seven years later.
I hit my rock bottom in 2019, before 2020 could show us just how bad a year could be.
In July 2020, I got fired from my job after single-handedly ruining a Fourth of July fireworks display.
What I did that day was not intentional by any means, but it happened.
It was my first job I was fired from.
That day was an unhappy one. A life-changing one.
Now, I was stuck in a mountain town, trying to find a job, trying to see the lesson, trying to see the brighter side. I looked at the waves of mountains cascading in the distance, reaching as far as the Sangre de Cristos, not yet peaked with snow.
I had planned to live here for years. Planned to be happy here.
And my whole life changed—just by one thing I did.
I spent the next year being miserable, anxious, unhappy, bitter, resentful, scared, depressing, and negative in every possible way. Believing I wasn’t worth sh*t. Feeling intense guilt over costing my boss, someone I loved and respected, hardship too.
I blamed the situation for my anxiety, fear, and happiness for a long time. Because of that, I decided I can’t enjoy fireworks now.
Then, 2020 came around and added to my already huge mess of emotions.
Then, I had to leave my job in China to come home (because, pandemic).
Then, I had romance yanked away from me (an attempt after a year of recovering from my last few relationships).
By then, I was still trying to find a job too.
Combine this with my still wounded self, and I was so f*cking exhausted with being unhappy, grieving, and getting the sh*t kicked out of my fragile little heart all the time.
In the midst of this pandemic, I reflected on my 2019 and 2020, pinpointing who I was then.
I was a sad, terrible, and depressing urchin. I’m surprised my friends and family didn’t tell me to f*ck off, honestly. Thank God for their grace and patience. I was not a joy to be around. I complained all the time. I was bitter about love and life. I didn’t believe in anything good. I was convinced the world was just out to get me.
I was living a sad existence, and it was comfortable there. Why?
Because when we’re sad, complaining, and struggling all the time, we get attention for it.
We convince ourselves we get more attention by being miserable than we do by being triumphant and living in our power. We do it without realizing how heavy our own sadness is and how it weighs on those we love and those rooting for us.
Being in our sadness, drama, and tragedy constantly…it’s a dark place to live. And while, yes, there are people there, and it seems like a comfortable community, it’s never really fun.
What good things do we even really get done down there anyway?
There is a difference between having occasional mental health days and working through trauma, and constantly living in a state of distress. Our bodies are not designed to go through constant stress unless in dire situations (like surviving alone in the wild or walking away from a car accident).
And yet, many of us are living this way every day.
For me, I was fed up. I was done living in the dark. Done with giving so much of my heart over to other things, and not giving enough of anything good to myself.
So, while 2020 was a f*cking sh*tshow of a year, it was my breaking point. It was the first time in decades, I actually cared about myself and what I wanted.
I decided to be happy. To take hold of the happiness that has been begging comfort, cultivation, and nurturing. I read more books, take more baths, build healthy relationships with my friends and family, and write like hell. I work so hard toward my goals, I don’t have time to worry about my love life (that will come).
I took accountability and responsibility for my sh*tty attitude and the roadblocks I placed in my own way. All those roadblocks helped me conjure the illusion that I was a victim.
If you’re wondering when you’ll have your breaking point, don’t worry—you’ll have it one day.
I am a believer in manifest destiny. And you can’t manifest destiny when you’re constantly succumbing to every negative thing threatening your happiness. What you give out, you get back, whether physically or mentally. At some point, you have to rise up from the suck.
Being happy is a decision. A choice.
Being miserable. Being a victim of your situation. That’s a choice too.
Not a single person likes to hear that. I know. I don’t like to hear it either.
We don’t like hearing that we are responsible for how we feel when someone breaks our heart or when they do us wrong. We scream to everyone, “But this thing! It made me this way. It’s their fault that I’m unhappy.”
Maybe for an instant it is, but not forever.
It’s okay if a person or thing has hurt you. But it’s up to you to move past it with strength, or let it be a grotesque part of your identity.
I love you. I don’t want this to hurt you. I want it to get you out of your negative headspace so you can recognize how powerful you are.
I understand that we carry traumas that take entire lifetimes to overcome. That there are days we will experience unhappiness. But you and I, we’ve both seen people rise from such terrible things only to achieve greatness and happiness.
We can be those same people.
We are powerful creators.
We can create our own beautiful fireworks show at any given moment.
We have to consciously decide to be happy.
It’s that simple.
It will take practice, but I believe in you.