You told me to cheer up, you said it to mock me without giving a second thought to the kind of day… week…month I was having. You were just walking by and you didn’t like how my face contorted to a frown, never once asking yourself or even me, why I had that expression. You were nothing but a stranger passing through my life for a few seconds but the impact you would leave was so much longer.
You, the stranger with no idea or consideration, never once thought about me, what I did for a living, the hardships I was going through.
You never knew about how for 8 hours a day, Monday to Friday, I had to plaster a fake smile, and talk with a gentle and happy tone in order to support the many people I looked after everyday.
You didn’t think about the worries I carry with me or the sadness in my heart. You saw me as anyone else probably would, just another miserable person with a frown, or a pained look, you didn’t like it but I didn’t wake up that morning thinking that I needed to hide my own very real emotions that I have to hide on a regular basis, especially not during my free time.
For some confusing and incomprehensible reason, you felt like your opinion mattered in this case, you thought that by telling me to smile, lighten up, cheer up, I was going to suddenly forget the troubles that keep me up late at night.
There are some people who with the pureness of heart try to impart some unwanted/secretly needed wisdom by asking for a person to smile, whilst not always appropriate is often called for with good intentions, these people do not use their words for mocking and in order to invoke even more sadness to the person they’re speaking to. Your words were said in a hateful way, and I bet you knew just how hurtful such a simple phrase could be. I bet you knew by telling me to smile you would make my upturned ‘smile’ even deeper.
I wish I could have faked a smile for you and those around us. I wish for that few minutes of the day I could have raised my head up and given the world what they want, a fake sense of happiness so that they can carry on pretending that everything is okay. I’ve carried that burden for so long that you’d have thought I’d be good at it, but the truth is for that day it became too much to do. I allowed myself to feel vulnerable, I allowed myself to feel my emotions rather than sweep them under a rug like I usually do.
I decided that after a hard day at work, I would do something a little different. Instead of going home straight away because it was late and I was coming out of a tough 8 hour shift, feeling completely useless and shit, and then going home to an empty house, and crying until I fell asleep, I would instead go and buy a little perk me up gift, perhaps that work bag I’d been eyeing up in Primark. Not an expensive splurge but certainly something I could allow myself to spend. Maybe just an ice cream from the ice cream van near the station, I don’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I thought being out of my house, being in public with other people would help get me out of my sadness and bring a little normalcy into my life. I felt so proud that I had made that decision not to run home and hide, despite my painful anxiety, despite my being afraid to be alone in public, despite me rarely making it out of the house except for work and as long as I was with someone else. I was so proud, even if my face didn’t show it, and then you came along and your simple words just washed them away. No matter how long you can take prepping yourself to do something different, it takes a matter of seconds for someone to come along and knock you back down, bringing with them your fears and worries.
Maybe I was being sensitive? Maybe I was letting someone else control my life all over again? Maybe. But I don’t know how people get the sense of entitlement to comment on someone else. It’s just like going up to a new parent and commenting on how tired they look. I’m sure they know just how tired they look but does it change anything? Does your comment suddenly make them less tired, does it mean they’ll get more rest? No. Surely it’s just the same for someone looking sad. Surely it would have been more kind to ask ‘Hey you look sad, are you okay? What is wrong? Can I do anything to help?’ It seems almost intrusive but at least the comment you so badly want to make about my sadness is then followed by a way you want to feel slightly responsible. Not that you are, but you shouldn’t have been involving yourself in the first place.
After you said what you needed to say, and after you bashed your shoulder against mine to make sure I understood your point, did you then watch me run away, run towards an empty car park, just fall down and cry? Did you watch as I tried to compose myself, trying so hard not to cry, begging for the car park to remain empty so no one could see me break down. As I sat on the concrete and fell apart, did you think about how your words would affect someone so vulnerable? I bet you didn’t.
Then when I finally found the courage to pick myself up from the floor. When I dried my tears, and fixed my hair. When I managed to calm my silent sobbing, I got back up and do you know what I did? I walked back to the tram stop to go home. No handbag, no ice cream could boost me up enough to want to make my way into the jungle of the city again. I figured I gave it my best attempt and that was all I could ask of myself. Thinking about it now, I should have tried a little harder, I shouldn’t have let you, an unkind stranger ruin what was to be the only good thing about my day.
I may not have succeeded that day, I may still have my paralyzing anxiety. But you know what? That experience got me thinking about how people treat others. I think about how life would be different if we made an effort to make peoples emotions part of our responsibilities. We should be waking up in the morning and wanting to make other people happy, wanting to fill the streets with smiling, laughing faces. Wanting to fill this world with a lot of light and love and kindness, but really at this moment in time, the majority wake up and want to do the opposite, and maybe it’s because they’ve not had anyone show them kindness.
Before you tell someone to cheer up, remember that we’re all humans who are capable of experiencing a great range of emotions and sometimes the emotion we may be feeling may not be positive, but we do have the right to feel and be this way. Before you go telling someone how to feel just remember to plaster that smile on your face everyday, every night, fake or not, even if it kills you.
Choose kindness, choose love.
Do something to make your parents proud today, your kids proud someday, and you proud everyday!
Peace and Love,