I have this unreal expectation that every day is going to be Perfect.
That I’m going to jolt up on my first alarm and bop through my day unscathed. That I will be free of surprise deadlines or feisty co-workers or creepy subway dudes. That it will be sunny and beautiful.
And, sometimes, it will.
Because, sometimes life is so Perfect that you can’t believe how the stars have aligned. You’re in awe that you are so lucky to be with these people, at this place, in this moment.
But, there are times when you just feel — well, Sad.
In our culture today, one where we live or die by our perfectly manicured Instagram feed, feeling Sad doesn’t seem to feel normal.
We feel like we always have to be On and Peppy and Smiling, whether we’re at work or at brunch. And frankly, it’s exhausting. Sometimes you just want to put your headphones on and hide behind your computer. Or mope in your apartment. No meetings, no water cooler talk.
But, you’re always met with some form of resistance.
You get bombarded with the questions like: What’s wrong? Are you okay? Or even worse — “Put a smile on!”
I’m here to tell you: you don’t need to. It’s okay, normal even, to have Bad Days. To Be Sad.
And, when you Accept those days — revel it them even — things start to look a little brighter. Because, life is a series of uncontrollable ups and downs.
And, it matters most how you handle them.
Navigating my first year of Work (the short version)
My first job wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
Transitioning from daily hikes in the New Zealand mountainside to cubicles in downtown Manhattan was a shock, to say the least. And, not long after entering my self-proclaimed prison cell, I noticed that anxiety-ridden panic attacks would strike at random.
One minute I would feel fine, and the next I couldn’t breathe. This sense of frustration was very different from the anxiety you feel during a plane delay, or noticing your Sweetgreen order didn’t go through.
The tightening of my chest would come on quickly and haphazardly. One second, I would be solving an excel formula, and the next I would see the following ten years of my life flash before my eyes — working in front of the same computer screen.
It was frightening.
I had never experienced anxiety, sadness, or frustration so blatantly. And, so seemingly out of my control. After a few weeks of experiencing these deep, deep Lows I knew that something had to give. I had to figure out how to crawl my way out of this.
So, I did the opposite of what seems intuitive. Whenever these moments of overwhelming sadness or anxiety came over me, I fully immersed myself in them.
I let myself feel all the Feelings.
I didn’t try to block them out. Or push them away. Or pretend they weren’t there. I ran into them head-on. I embraced my worries. I lived in the shittiness of the moment.
Most importantly, I accepted what my mind and body were going through.
I gave myself a certain amount of time to dwell in the moment, and processed my emotions. I went for a walk outside, or cried in the bathroom. Or I sat at my desk and stared ahead at my computer screen — thinking, processing, working through my frustration.
I had never really done this before.
Typically, when something bothered me, I would convince myself it was fine. It wasn’t a big deal. I would shrug it off.
But, these feelings — this gunk — would build up over time. And bam, a seemingly small issue made me snap. Ever get into an argument with your college roommate over dishes in the sink?
So yes, you know what I’m talking about.
I realized that acknowledging I was feeling something besides happiness or excitement allowed me to move forward instead of just moving ahead. I was able to figure out a solution instead of just wallowing in the problem. My mind was cleared, and instead of freaking out about my boss calling me out in a meeting for the rest of the day, I could approach him about it.
I learned that these so-called Bad day ain’t so Bad when you just embrace it.
Those strategies that I acquired during my lowest of Lows were essential to adjusting to Adulthood.
Because, sometimes there are going to be days where you just feel Sad.
Whether it’s because you didn’t have any change for your laundry machine, or sent out a bad email, or even just hormones — shit happens.
Embrace it. Feel it. Don’t just run away.
Avoiding these feelings is the easiest option. But, if you just ignore them, you can’t just pretend they’re not there.
They will surface again.
It reminds me of how you approach an oncoming wave in the ocean. You can either proactively dive into it, and jump out of the water feeling refreshed. You let the wave ride over you.
Or, you can be scared of it. You can run away — but it never seems to be fast enough. Somehow, the wave will crash over you, and bring you down with it’s force.
We can’t let our emotions take over our lives like that.
It’s scary, but allow yourself to have Bad Days. They are going to happen, no matter what measures you take to ensure that they won’t.
Allow yourself to accept and Move Forward.
I did — and still do, almost every day. Because hey, that’s life.