An Anthropologie candle burned, its delicious scent filling my room as I put the finishing touches on my vision board for the rest of the spring. My room back home was and still remains my sanctuary, despite the time that has passed. Each time I return to it, a unique sense of calm fills my bones, one that I still haven’t quite managed to create for myself here at Hopkins. Now I know what you’re thinking. Say what you will about the idea of manifesting your dreams, but through the process of collaging my goals, inspirations and favorite memories, I gained clarity regarding a variety of decisions that had been rattling around in my brain for weeks.
One quote that found its way to the front and center of my board (and my refreshed mind) was “When life gets bad, make it funny,” torn out from a feature on the current co-head writers and Weekend Update anchors of Saturday Night Live, Colin Jost and Michael Che, published in Glamour. We’re all the protagonists of our own stories, each on our own quest to obtain our definition of success: that job, that relationship, that degree. In the process, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of giving each and every moment much more weight than it deserves, often leading to a paralyzing sense of fear that in acting authentically, we’re risking more than just shame — we’re risking our future.
Hopkins itself can exacerbate this. Being surrounded by the best and the brightest peers is amazing, but it can also feel overwhelming and isolating. I wonder what would happen if each of us chose to laugh at ourselves rather than take ourselves so seriously, if we owned the imperfections embedded in our personal narratives? I, for one, think we’d find ourselves far less lonely. Of course, I’m not referring to just any form of laughter. The intent isn’t to be cruel to ourselves or towards one another, but rather to let the shared humor serve as an invaluable reminder that we’re not alone.
So you lost your footing, fell and dropped your bag on the escalator at BWI, running after it like a hamster on a wheel until a Good Samaritan helped you pick it up? Well you could choose to blow this out of proportion, turning it into a bad omen, a sign of your stupidity and the rough second half of the semester to come. Or you could admit that to a third party, the sight must’ve been pretty funny, and you could use the absurd moment to bond with virtually anyone that’s been exhausted in an airport, because the complications of air travel (delays, lost bags, screaming kids) tend to be a shared bane of all of our existences.
Embarrassed by your love of pop punk? Well while we live in the era of “Big Data,” the chances that your future employer is going to scope out your Spotify seem pretty limited. In my personal experience, judging by many Wednesday nights at The News-Letter, everyone has their musical guilty pleasures: those songs that remind you of your parents, of seemingly long car rides to and from school activities, the ones you once sang unabashedly at the top of your lungs. It turns out that revisiting them, embracing the angsty, middle school you that once was isn’t just funny, it’s also a kind of comfort food for the soul. So sing out “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” by Panic! At the Disco, “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne or whatever else takes you back.
Have you realized that you find it virtually impossible to imbue a text with just the right amount of flirtiness? Well I’d wager that even the most extroverted members of your circle have felt that same electric current of excitement and hesitation that comes with trying to find the perfect thing to say. Even Lorde has found herself “overthink[ing]” someone’s “pu-punctuation use.” We may live in the era of Tinder and “hookup culture,” but that doesn’t make any of us experts. Rather than feeling ashamed of your lack of “game,” you can decide to consult with your friends and make light of it.
It’s easier said than done, but there is power to be found in positively reshaping how we view ourselves and our circumstances. Pinning this quote up on my board was the perfect reminder that each time I’ve chosen vulnerability, sharing rather than retreating under the covers in the wake of a disappointment or embarrassment, I’ve found a different kind of refreshing refuge in the invigorating humor and support of my friends.
Rarely are things so bad that you can’t find a sense of humor, however dark, in them, even if the comical-ness only strikes after a few tears have been shed. Next time you’re feeling down and out, I challenge you to find the funny in your situation and share it with your friends. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find on the other side of the fear of admitting failure or humiliation.