In college, I accidentally took a memoir class.
It ended up being one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taken.
It wasn’t a typical classroom or lecture hall, it was a small room with fluorescent lights and cheap, hardwood tables lined up along the perimeter of the space. Each student was strategically placed on a cold, metal chair that faced the center of the room where everyone could clearly see the faces of their classmates. It was intimate.
The introvert in me resisted the circular setup, but I decided to play it “cool.” I lounged back in my chair and pretended to pick the dirt out of my nails to prevent the dreaded eye contact our professor forced upon us. It’s funny how we actively avoid the intimate connection we often crave.
Before class had begun, the professor pressed her hands against the edge of her desk, pushed the surface away from her, and stood up from the chair beneath her. The first thing she said (and I’ll never forget it) was, “You all know this is a memoir class, right?”
My heart sank into my stomach as I nodded “yes” to the professor as if I totally knew why I was there. But I had no intention of taking a memoir class. Thinking back on it, I can’t believe how mindless I must have been to have mistaken the class for an ethnic studies course—but I guess I wasn’t the only one since the professor had to ask this question in the first place. (Turns out, it was just a course within the ethnic studies department.)
When I found out the final project was to turn in a 15-page memoir for the entire class to read and constructively criticize while sitting at those damn tables in that damn circle, I thought I was going to vomit. Great.
I struggled for weeks trying to decide what to write about.
None of my stories felt worthy enough to tell. I grew up privileged and entirely grateful for my childhood and the way I was raised. I grew up experiencing joy. I was loved by others and I loved in return. I was supported, fed, safe, and deeply held.
My joyful life felt unworthy of sharing.
I felt this way because I was taught to believe that in order to write a meaningful story or consciously connect with others, I had to share my suffering.
I considered writing about my big (but beautiful) dysfunctional family, the death of my brother, mental illness, and even being raped, but I did not once consider joy. Joy was entirely out of the question because what I desired was to be seen as worthy. I desired to earn my badge of honor that proved I had suffered enough to be welcomed.
And I did not once consider that maybe, just maybe, sharing my pleasure could create even juicier connections and intimacy with my peers. And maybe, they too could experience the joy I had, if only I chose to share it.
But I didn’t.
And so, I wrote about my pain and highlighted my suffering. I dampened my happiness in hopes of receiving connection and acceptance from others. I sacrificed my joy and I made everyone in that room feel the trauma I had been through.
I made everyone in that room carry my pain.
And now, I lay here and I wonder: what if I had chosen to share my joy instead? Would my classmates have been able to experience some of that joy as well? How often am I sacrificing my own joy and creating more suffering for myself and those around me in my everyday life?
And I, of course, understand the value and importance of sharing our troubles and healing in community, but I also can’t help but question how often we actively suppress our birthright to feel joy by continuously choosing pain over pleasure when trying to create deeper intimate connections.
And yes, I see the beauty in being reminded that we are not alone in our suffering, but it is joy that we often desire. And it is pleasure that we often seek.
And to gift others with what they desire and crave is the most precious, intimate gift of all.
And I am not saying we should stop sharing our pain—of course not. What I am saying is that maybe we should start consciously choosing to share more of our joy, more of our pleasure, and more of our love more often.
Because the world needs our love. And the more joy, the more pleasure, and the more love we can share with others, the more we will be able to create.
And so, today and most days, I am choosing to share my joy. I am choosing to look up from my seat, make eye contact with my peers, and smile at those who surround me because chances are, they will smile back.