I struggled with how to write this post because it felt entirely too narcissistic and self-absorbed, and although I realize that may sound like a no-brainer, considering how I'm the middle of taking a self-portrait a week, that's not my goal at all.
However, I've ranted and raved and shared enough of my ridiculous life that if you've stuck with me this far, this all might just make sense.
So I've had more than one person mention to me in recent history that I'm always upbeat, enthusiastic, etc. And my first response is usually to laugh on the inside because HELLO OBVIOUSLY YOU'VE NEVER MET THE CRAZY THAT IS THE INSIDE OF MY HEAD. But I know that is how I come across to a lot of people, a lot of the time, and it's not because I naturally have a bubbly personality, although I might. It's also not because I drink massive amounts of caffeine, because I don't, although no one believes me when I say that EVER. (No really, I talk fast all the time.)
Ok, first of all, I was homeschooled for most of my life. I went to public school in the second grade, and that's it. I loved homeschooling. No, I was never allowed to "go to school in my pajamas." Instead, a good portion of my schooling involved being at the family-owned restaurant at 5 in the morning, cooking, and later in the day doing the books for said business. At 15. (My sisters and I would alternate days at the restaurant and do normal school at home on our off days.) It was awesome, I loved it, and I still use that recipe for meatloaf.
However, when my family was 12 we enrolled in an international homeschool group that I now consider a cult. This is the part that's hard to write, because, well, to some people it was just a really conservative Christian group. In addition, I learned a lot there, I made some amazing friends there, I met my husband there. So there was much good, but that doesn't erase the fact that there were incredible amounts of control and legalism. (Example: if we were really Godly we would make all our own bread from flour we ground ourselves.)
The slogan of this group was "giving the world a new approach to life" and we believed that with our whole hearts. Anything that was remotely...normal...was worldly, and would distract us from our main purpose changing the world! For God! With our good character! Dating, "rock" music, pants, normal jobs...these things had no part in my life between ages 12 and 21. Even education: we were told, quite seriously, that if we had good character, employers would hire us over people with college degrees. Instead of going to colleges where we would "wash out" spiritually, we were to serve selflessly (preferably this group) and when we were ready, to, you know, start lives, then the employment opportunities would just be there. Because we would have good character and a portfolio of all this amazing unpaid work we did.
Reading that now I realize how ludicrous it sounds, but at the time I was 15, I was swept up in the social group, and I wanted to Change! The! World!
I still want to change the world.
So that was all to give you some background and I can explain two huge parts of my life philosophy that were shaped there.
One major standard by which we were evaluated was "Energy Giver/Waster/Taker." Everyone, we were told, is one of those things, and we get to choose which we want to be. I found the handy chart online, but if you don't feel like clicking on a pdf, let me share only the first line: an energy giver greets EVERYONE with a smile, a waster smiles only at their friends, and a taker does not smile and draws attention to themselves with their sadness. It gets better from there. To this day, I unconsciously evaluate wether or not I'm being an energy giver. It's not a bad thing, exactly, but it's taken me a while to learn that it's ok to not always be "on." However, the times when I do let myself go and just vent, I typically regret it later.
The second concept that won't let me go is the idea that "the good is the enemy of the best." The idea is that it's not BAD things that lure us away from wise choices, it's actually really good things that aren't the BEST things. I lived my teenage years in fear of missing the best because I had been distracted by the good, with the consequence of saying no to a lot because it probably wasn't the best thing.
So how does this relate to me now, nearly 10 years after I walked away from all that? Well, I still smile at almost everyone, I will find a punchline in the most horrifying story (that happens to me) and I'm still convinced that I want to change the world.
But here's the amazing thing of which I've become convinced: changing the world does not happen because I have a cause or a purpose, it doesn't happen because of legislation or art or a cause. Changing the world happens every day, around each of us. I'm completely convinced that we daily change the world for each other, simply by being there. It's our choice, therefore, wether it will be change for the better or worse. I fail at this far more often than I'd like to admit; I'm a terribly snarky person and I can be hideously critical. I'm trying to stop, really I am.
So that? That's why I smile every day: because if I run into you tomorrow, I want to change your world, just a little bit, for the better.
Is this ridiculously idealistic? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean its invalid.
So since you're going to change the world anyway, you might was well make it for the better today, k? I dare you.