I’ve been to this place before. It’s quieter than it needs to be, my eyes are redder and more watery than I willed them to be, and against every fiber of will in my body, I find myself curling up and succumbing to the sadness. I’m angry at the fact that I have so much to do—there are so many papers to write, so many people I need to help—and yet I’m wasting my time crying because of how stressed I am. My productivity has plummeted, and I stew until I’m ready to begin the cycle again.
It often seems like my life is an endless series of these periods. I work for a while, it all becomes too much, and then I break down, all for it to restart again when my focus shifts and logical thinking returns. The unrelenting sense of melancholy that these stacked odds make me feel is enough to continue the cycle. As much as I want to be positive all the time, mounting expectations debilitate the positive part of me from shining through, and all that’s left is a tired, unmotivated husk who finds it easier to move through the work one painful bit at a time. And I let it happen, because sometimes it’s just easier to acquiesce.
As much as I love life and enjoy living it, there are moments when I question its purpose. What’s the point of taking on a plethora of passion projects when the momentary joy fades and assignments of weeks past stare me down, demanding to be done? How do I know the career path that I’m pursuing is worth it? If my efforts to be a writer can crumble into stress and tears before I’m out of high school, how do I know I can continue to do this into adulthood? As much as I want to satisfy my dreams and achieve happiness in life, it seems that my efforts always fall short, leaving me defeated.
But then there’s that one brief moment that makes all those worries dissipate. My heart beats quicker, almost to the point where it feels like it will swell and burst; my eyes widen to take in the entirety of the moment, growing until I feel as though they might just bulge out of my skull. This is accompanied by a realization of the magnitude of life and the brilliance that is the ability to experience the moment I’m living in. A pocket of perfect is gifted to me amidst the chaos of the world, and I allow myself to live in it. That pocket is the moment when my best friend and I are laughing uncontrollably about something the other one said, tears coming down our faces and our abdomens aching. It’s the feeling of standing in a cluster of people, swaying to the music, and turning to see a flurry of lights moving to the bassline. I find the perfection when I’m enjoying the pint of rainbow sherbet that was on sale at the market or when I find a few extra dollars in my purse or when the sun shines a little brighter on my face, warming my skin deep into my bones.
It’s a series of subtle pleasures that are as fleeting as they are perfect, and they are the paradises I crave when I’ve lost my way. I don’t think it’s possible to find a perfect place that lasts for more than a short while—it’s unrealistic to expect a utopia to exist anywhere other than life’s most intimate moments. And that’s okay. To me, life doesn’t have to be beautiful all the time for it to be worth it. Life is supposed to be stressful and messy and upsetting, but it’s also supposed to feel heartwarming and simple and like a scene straight out of a young adult novel. It’s necessary for our experiences in life to ebb and flow, to be a pendulum swinging in constant motion. It’s the difficult parts of life that make the mini-utopias that much more special to me, and it’s the cycles of stress that invite meaningful reactions to the bite-sized slices of beauty that are stumbled upon. Things are less than ideal, more often than not, but that is something I’ve come to be okay with. I know that, in between the disorder and madness, I’ll always be able to find mini-utopias in places where they should have otherwise been impossible.
By Sophia Moore