In some cultures and religions, people believe that there are spiritual guardians who watch over them, protect them from dark thoughts and times, and fulfill their desires for peace and happiness. I’m not particularly spiritual or religious, but I understand the value of such a romantic notion. Sometimes, other human beings don’t make for the best company. Sometimes, you know exactly what you need and how unlikely it is that someone else will give that to you unsolicited. It’s comforting to think that every event in your life happens for a reason and that a being more perfect than yourself or anyone else you have ever met loves you unconditionally. It’s comforting to think something or someone can always aid you during such hopeless times.
I’ve never been able to take on such a mindset. Images of angels or spiritual brothers don’t click with me. Perhaps it’s because, after so much time on this Earth, I’ve grown to associate those images and ideas with other institutions or groups of people who exist in the physical world, and those connections prevent me from seeing those images as something that can actually exist in the “beyond.” Maybe it’s something else. Regardless, it’s not an avenue I can pursue when I need guidance. I can’t comfort myself by pretending that something is watching over me in a loving way. It doesn’t give me joy.
One of the benefits of being at Cornell University has been the stress it’s added to my life. Usually I portray that stress as a con, but it has added some value to my education. Other students see the stress we endure here as something they need to overcome; I see it as something which has forced me to overcome other, more greater issues in my life.
The problem isn’t the stress. Feeling out of control, sad, or frustrated isn’t inherently bad. It helps you realize that something is wrong with the current situation. It makes you aware of how you truly feel about things by forcing you to stop what you’re doing and to manage your emotions. Particularly when you are very stressed, it can force you to consider more radical changes in your life. So long as you are not consumed entirely by it, stress can be a helpful red flag when you’re letting yourself get carried into a life you don’t really want.
What is difficult is figuring out how to get back on the path to the life you do want after you’ve identified what is giving you stress and that that stress is no longer healthy for you. How do you combat stress productively when you’re not sure what avenues exist for you to pursue or what you even really want from life? I think that is what challenges a lot of students–and a lot of people in general–when stress eats away at their happiness.
For me, being stressed at Cornell forced me to confront the fact that, even though I have an idea of what currently makes me happy in life, I don’t know what will make me happy in the future or what to do now in order to get closer to the sort of future life that will make me happier. I’m too aware of the fact that I’ve been blessed with a pleasant life thus far, and I fear that there are too many ways that I can become less happy about myself and with life from here on out. I don’t know what to do next to preserve the sense of happiness I already have or to gain the happiness I still seek.
It’s these times when I wish I believed in Gods or angels. It’s these times when I wished I believed more in the spiritual realm or in mystical beings.
Instead, I skip in the rain.
I listen to music.
I pretend I’m the hero in a story I hear only in my head.
I play with imaginary friends that I create in my mind, and they do silly things and whisper pleasant words in my ears.
It makes me look crazy when I do these things, so I tend to do them by myself. The stories I create, the people I pretend to see–they don’t get anything out of our adventures. The people around me in the real world don’t revel in my joy; they see it as odd. I’m the only one who derives happiness from it.
And I guess, in that way, I have found my own romantic notion of being loved by something that isn’t there. Because, when I am sad, I pretend that there is a part of my mind that loves me unconditionally and will endeavor to make me happy however it can. It creates stories for me and hides the compliments I always wanted to hear from others until the very moments I need to hear them. The thing I need most to make me happy is myself–for me to love myself–and so being alone with myself for a few minutes so I can remind myself that I was born loving me makes me happy.
So maybe my angel is hidden in the rain. Or maybe my spiritual brother glides by me when I skip. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just me–in that whole picture of me being happy just skipping in the rain–that is beautiful. Maybe I’m the one who make me happy, because it is I who is so special as to have that ability to bring happiness to any small moment of my life. I’m who I need.
And I think that idea is more romantic than any image of angels I have ever seen.