When Life Happens All at Once
How do we experience joy and grief at the same time?
When I scroll through my Instagram feed, I find one of two things. Either, I see people oversharing about the difficult circumstances in their lives, or I see people presenting lives that seem constantly full of adventure. But what I have found to be true in reality is: most people are experiencing happiness, sadness, confusion, anger, and excitement all at once.
One minute you are standing on the top of a mountain and the next you are at the bottom of a valley. And then, you somehow try to find a way to exist between the peaks and the pits.
In 2022, I experienced a great deal of change and major life events. I had just moved to Maine and I was becoming settled there in the dead of winter. It is hard enough to make friends in a new place, but when you add bone-chilling weather that keeps most people inside, that makes it significantly harder.
I started an academically rigorous graduate program.
I competed for Miss Maine USA 2022 so deeply hoping I would win, and I did not. I had deep internal conflict about why I kept pursuing a goal that seemed to be a dead end road for me.
My boyfriend of 5 years proposed, which was incredibly exciting. We began planning our wedding, all of which is falling into place quite nicely.
At the same time, I struggled to decide whether I would compete for Miss Maine USA 2023 in November of 2022. As I continued with my graduate program and wedding planning, I decided to compete one more time. I competed, and I actually won.
For about three weeks, I felt euphoric. I could not believe I was 23 years old, engaged to a fantastic guy, and was on the road to compete at Miss USA.
Then, I headed home for the holidays, and something terribly unexpected happened. One of my dearest friends from high school died in a catastrophic accident.
I felt such deep pain and regret. Why had I not seen her more in the past few years? How could the beautiful 24 year old PhD student I had dinner with just months before be gone? We shared so many special moments together in our teenage years, and I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that I will never touch her or hear her laugh again. My heart is absolutely shattered for her family.
Here I am now, simultaneously excited for the year of my wedding and the year I compete at Miss USA, while also grieving the loss of an intimate friend and waiting for the service to honor her life.
This experience has shown me that on some spectrum, everyone is experiencing these competing emotions and life events.
Maybe you just suffered a miscarriage, but you have another child celebrating their birthday. Maybe you just committed to play a division 1 college sport, but your boyfriend of three years just broke up with you. Maybe you are finally pregnant with twins after years of trying to have children, but your dad was just diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. Maybe you are building special, fruitful friendships in a new city, but you are about to get evicted from your apartment. Maybe you were offered your dream job, but you just found out your spouse is having an affair.
Gain and loss are key components of the human experience, and it can be difficult to fully process both. How do we possibly celebrate and suffer at the same time? I would say: just keep moving. You must let yourself feel your emotions as they come, while focusing on what will propel you forward. We all have duties and purposes on this earth. And, it is important that in times of both jubilation and sorrow, we run the race that is set before us.
As you meet new life-altering events this year, give yourself permission to feel emotions across the spectrum. You are allowed to have joy and grief at the same time.