The fact of the matter is that I was destined to have a happy temperament. For one thing, my laugh is loud enough to echo. Due to a love/hate relationship with orthodontia, my teeth are unable to touch making me a one-woman open-mouth smile machine. And, if we're being honest, my cheeks don't stretch far enough to create a frown.
I'm also hugely expressive. I have been known to bounce up and down in chairs when I get excited about things, and sometimes my hand motions get so out of control that I smack random bystanders in the head. (Whoops.)
I feel like I've become someone that people can count on to be happy. Someone they can call or text when they need a ray of sunshine to get them through the day. And it's great.
Yes, I have to do a lot of listening, but I love that people trust me to find the silver lining of their crappy situations.
Over the past few years, I've done a lot of growing up. Coming to college in Iowa meant that I was on my own to find out who I was, and I'm proud to say that it's been a very rewarding experience.
If you can remember back to the beginning of these blogs, you'll recall a girl that was absolutely bursting with a zest for life. She couldn't get enough of the simple pleasures of each and every day.
That girl is very much still here. If I didn't have pesky homework to deal with, I could probably devote a blog a day to the hundreds of reasons I have to smile.
But that doesn't mean that life is all rainbows and marshmallows as one of my best guy friends likes to say. In fact, this has been one of the most emotionally trying semesters I've ever had.
You won't notice a change on my report card. And few of my friends would report any difference in my upbeat ways, but I feel like that unending sunshine bursting out of me has been tempered by life realities that have been very hard to face.
In September, my grandpa passed away unexpectedly. Though one could hardly call us close, for a girl who went 19 years without losing a single relative, losing two in less than a year was painful and unsettling.
And during a visit home in October, I received further bad news that has been weighing on my mind even from 200 miles away.
But, as I said, I'm not designed to be unhappy. Swept up in my busy schedule of student org meetings and unending assignments, I could easily pretend that nothing was on my mind but the latest excitement in my romantic adventures or unexpectedly great movies.
I became so absorbed in continuing to be the sunshiny girl that the people in my life were used to that it was impossible to let myself cry or yell or just take a day to lay in bed watching my favorite movies and thinking about where all this pain swirling in my soul was really coming from.
This past week, I gathered up the courage to discuss, in-person, a situation that was distressing me far more than it should have. And I was so incredibly proud and relieved to finally have it out in the open. And having jumped that hurdle, I became convinced that smiles would return naturally and that all the other scary troubles inside of me would dissipate with time.
But then today I went to a Voices of Soul concert with one of my best friends, Nora. It was one of my first gospel choir experiences and I was in awe as raw emotion filled the room and Nora's eyes teared-up during almost every song.
I found it beautiful, but these emotions were separate from me. I was all smiles at the wonderment of it all, but stubbornly unaffected by the power of the message.
And then came the next song- a song about how everything is going to be okay. A rich tone telling me that things are going to get better.
I felt a wave of emotion sweep over me and turned to Nora just as the choke reached my throat. Suddenly, I started sobbing. All of the emotions surrounding worries from home hit me all at once and Nora and I were laughing at the absurdity of the tears rolling down my cheeks.
Sobbing but smiling. Smiling because it felt so good to stop bottling up everything that was dragging me down.
It wasn't hard to figure out why that song got to me. Even Nora said that she knew those lyrics would get me.
"Things are going to get better."
As an eternal optimist, these last few weeks have been tearing me apart. Without fully working through everything on my mind, without talking through everything with family and friends, I had let myself stop believing that everything was going to be okay. That things would get better.
Far from the girl bursting with joy and leaping happily from one adventure to the next, I had been tiptoeing through my life, scared of what would hurt me next.
And as I sit writing this with tears in my eyes, I continue to worry about what emotional turmoil lies ahead in the coming weeks. But as silly as it sounds, that one song has taken away the true fear that I was carrying.
Because there's a spark that has returned- a spark that brought me back to a truth I hold most dear. Life is not meant to be easy. But it's still beautiful.
And no matter how many tears have yet to fall, I know my smile has returned.
Things are going to get better and everything is going to be okay.
Peace, love and pumpkin pie,