Do you remember what it was like to play or be silly? When was the last time you laughed so hard your cheeks hurt? Do you remember the feeling of reckless abandon…driving with your head out the window or skipping along a path or falling hopelessly in love with someone?
Somewhere along the way, somehow, I feel like we have collectively lost our sense of joy.
Maybe it’s the heaviness of the news right now. Or maybe it’s adulthood pulling at you to responsibly face everything…the laundry, the bills, the carpooling, the work, the shopping, the taxes. Or maybe we have been spending so much time in our heads, we have forgotten how to connect with how we feel in our bodies.
After so many years of being corrected, punished, and told how to act right, the world gives us no time for pleasure (no wonder drug use, prescription medicine and alcoholism are at an all time high.) We grow up being told to stand in line, take your turn, smile petty for the photo. We are told to suffer through it all or suffer the consequences. We are put into tiny boxes, expectations swirling around us like vultures ready to feast on the dying carcass of joy trailing behind us. After all, you can’t pay the bills having fun.
Or can you?
Could you – just for a moment – decide that life (and even work) was meant to be fun? Could you assume that there is joy within it all? Wouldn’t success come more readily while we are finding things we enjoy?
Pleasure, or joy, can come in many ways…going for a nourishing walk through the woods, finding an amazing concert of your favorite band, road tripping to a fun, new town with your favorite friends, or even in your daily work.
When I am photographing a family, or food, or whatever I am doing, I feel joy. But I can get caught up in the seriousness of it all with things like “Am I good enough at my job?” or “When are they going to pay me for this?” can get in the way of WHY I am doing this. It puts joy in a choke hold and suffocates it. If those questions creep in, I always see it in my work.
Finding the fun in the everyday isn’t only a recommendation anymore, it’s a requirement - like breath and water. We need joy, but it seems like we have lost it inside of adulting. When the heaviness creeps in and gets in the way of all that we are doing, it zaps energy and steals the joy we have. When I approach life with the “What am I gonna get out of this” mentality or “what is the (so-called) cost of this,” joy always takes a back seat. It’s an immediate buzz kill. If I worried about the price of the tickets to the concert we went to this week, I would never have been able to lean into the experience. I would never have felt that deep joy.
Much like anything, joy takes practice. It’s a shedding of layers of guilt and years of unraveling what messages we got around being happy - if we deserve it, if we are worthy enough for it’s company. But like everything, you have to keep trying.
But your happiness - your pursuit of of joy - has ripple effects. Your joy affects everyone you come in touch with and everyone around you. And, my friend, that little practice has the power to change the our whole world.
So buy that ticket. Invite those friends over. Pursue that new career. Jump off the diving board into the deep end and swim around in that joy. You’ll be so happy you did.