So let’s add this up. Final grades have just come in: they may have not been stellar. Pounds may have been added due to holiday festivities. Money has most likely been drained because of holiday shopping and perhaps some retail therapy. Internship placements may have fallen through. You’re still broken up. One pair of hands may be still eternally missing from the decoration of the Christmas tree. Your parents’ divorce is still very much final. Santa Claus forgot to drop off the extra dose of sanity and strong drinks that are often needed during the “most wonderful time of the year.” All is supposed to be right in the world and, yet, the same old crap that bogs you down every day doesn’t magically disappear when the Christmas tree and the menorah are lit. A famous Christmas song even promises it: “have yourself a merry little Christmas- from now on our troubles will be out of sight.” But the troubles are still very much in sight. So you wait. And you hope. The magical date of January first looms nearer as you place your happiness in the promise of a fresh start in the form of your new year’s resolution.
So who am I? Well, some may consider me the holidays’ scrooge. Here I am reminding you of how stressful your life can get when Hallmark convinces us that this is a time of year for magic and a renewed beginning. And, in a way, it is. After the partying happens on New Years Eve, gym memberships are purchased. Appointments at the tutoring center are made. Volunteering opportunities are scheduled in order to procure that spot in Heaven. Vows to stop smoking are said. And yet, the crap: it lingers. We still can’t catch on to the groove of complete happiness that we are taught is the norm from the time we are infants: normal people are completely happy people. So what the hell is wrong with us? Why can’t we measure up to the happiness that is sold to us in the form of flawless magazine models, picturesque nuclear families on TV, and the girl who has 2,000 “friends” on Facebook? We have to fit into the happiness mold! And 2014 is the year to do this! Resolutions help us become happy! They give us control; complete happiness is now in our reach.
Here’s the catch, though: life is, by my own definition, a period of time in which we struggle to find the good. And it is through this struggle that happiness is found. It is stumbled upon when dragons are slayed and fleeting moments when the good guy wins. It is through the struggle that true value is found. I would argue that the fight for the good is the good itself.
One of my favorite artists, Jason Mraz, summarizes this sentiment perfectly when he sings:
“240 thousand miles from the moon, you’ve come a long way to belong here, to share this view of the night, a glorious night, over the horizon is another bright sky…sometimes it may seem dark but the absence of the light is the necessary part.”
It is in this way that the experience of the darkness is a privilege. There is no reward without striving; there is no light without the darkness. And even though we are always 240 thousand miles from the moon, its light overcomes the black abyss. The moon is never within reach, but it guides and motivates us just like happiness does. Like the moon, happiness is never completely achievable; the darkness will always separate us. But the striving: ah, it is through the ever striving to reach happiness and the metaphorical moon that keeps us engaged in our own light.
So this New Years, let’s get realistic and learn to dance in the darkness. Savor the hard time and throw yourself in it. Because while I hope 2014 is a year filled with bliss for you, I also hope that there is some darkness involved. But mostly, I hope that, perhaps for a change of pace, you regard the darkness as a privilege as it presents to you the opportunity to overcome hardship and find the good that is striving itself. Of course, many of you will still buy the gym memberships and the Nicorette products. And for that, I applaud you. I always encourage health and balance; too many of us lack both.
But for all of you, I hope that you never forget that little light just 240 thousand miles away. Know that it dances just for you; it will always overcome the darkness. Go outside and savor the majesty of the being that only appears in the utter blackness and is still revered by all when it comes to its fullness and glows with the promise of guidance in the dark blanket of the night.
This year, go be a helper of the moon. The world needs more people who light the night and who can come to their fullness in the midst of hardship. After all, the other stars will imitate it. And the sky will light up.
Finally, the sky will be lit up.