“Come on, sweetheart; won’t you give me a smile? Is that too much to ask? Just one smile?”
Do I have to?
It’s a Western society norm for us to say and do a lot of things just to make other people happy. Words like “I’m fine” will escape your lips when you’re not. “It’s all okay.” “No, I’m totally not on the verge of a breakdown—what are you talking about? This is my regular face.”
But I’m so f*cking tired of smiling.
My face hurts, and I can feel my eye twitching from the strain, but I feel obligated to smile and I do. Because, what other choice do I have? I’ll just wait until the world’s back is turned to let it fall. No one will even realize it left; by the time the world turns around again, it’ll be back, and they’ll be just as fooled by it as ever.
“Oh, come now, dear, that isn’t very happy. Cheer up! Tell us a different story! Give us a lesson, a moral, a happy ending so that we can all leave you feeling better about ourselves!”
Why would I? Maybe there is no lesson. Maybe this is just the way it is. Maybe there is no great, big takeaway, maybe there is no reason, no rhythm, no rhyme. Maybe the world is just one great, big stinking cesspool, and we’re all trying to force reason into it. Maybe life is nothing more than a constant stream of pain from which we can never fully escape. Maybe I spend all my time waiting for things to get better—just one more year, three more months, another day, things will be fine, I promise—and maybe it’s all a great lie that I tell to keep myself from giving up.
Do I really believe that? Of course. Of course not. I won’t in an hour, at least, and I don’t even know if I do now, but now it feels like the right thing to say. Right now, whether or not it’s true doesn’t matter; what matters is that it reflects my mood.
I’m not saying it because I want anyone else to believe it—I don’t. The only reason I’m saying it is so that the ones in my life can see into my mind. So that they can understand why I hesitate when they ask me to smile.
To those who don’t seem to understand how I feel: would you smile if those meaningless thoughts kept returning to your mind?
Stop ignoring me! Stop pretending that she is better than me, because she isn’t! She, the other me, the one who smiles without being told, the one who gives the people in her life inspiration that’s fresh, new, and meaningful at the drop of a hat? She exists, but so do I. We take turns; sometimes she’s in charge, sometimes I am. And sometimes, she leaves me holding the bag, struggling to fill in for all the things she does, all the jobs she told me she’d be able to handle.
“Smile, dear. The other you does.”
I know. But I’m not her right now.
“Give us a happy story, dear. The other you does.”
I know. But I’m not her right now.
“Well, when will the other you be back? You’re tiresome and annoying; bring her back.”
I can’t. I can’t just summon her from thin air. She needs to return of her own accord. And until then, I’m all this world’s got. I’m sorry that isn’t enough for some, but I’m trying. Believe me, I’m trying so hard that I literally cannot do any more.
And why do I have to be her anyway? Why do I have to pretend for people? Why does every story need to be wrapped up nicely with a happily-ever-after? Why does every face need a smile to be considered polite? She’ll come back eventually, and when she does, those in my life will get what they’re looking for, but in the meantime, why do I have to lie for acceptance?
I don’t want to pretend. We shouldn’t have to. We should be allowed to feel how we feel, regardless of how we were yesterday. Because sometimes we’re going to be happy, and sometimes we’re going to be mopey, tired, and depressed. Both are perfectly alright. Both are part of being human.
Consistency is overrated; we are ever-changing. Be who you are today, whoever that is. Love who that is, and don’t compare them to another versionof yourself. Fighting ourselves—forcing ourselves to be someone we want—is only going to make the difficult moments longer and harder to deal with.
She—the other me, the other you—will come back. But for now, don’t deny who you are.
Author: Ciara Hall
Editor: Jen Schwartz
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron