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Student Series: The Pressure of Sunshine    

Student Series: The Pressure of Sunshine

Art by FISK

By Annick Mitchell

Ever since I was born people have referred to me as sunshine. It started with my parents – my mom has always called me her “sunshine daydream,” and as I grew older my blonde hair and fair features, along with my yellow-painted room, big smile, and “yellow aura and energy” led the people around me to constantly say “you are just like sunshine,” “you just seem yellow,” “you are always so happy, sweet, and kind to everyone.” As a child this perception was true and coming into my high school years it helped define my character. I did not feel like sunshine all the time, but I strove for it; it made me feel better and I didn’t want that sunshine reputation to go away. 

High school ended on a high note but once college began, I struggled a lot. I quickly realized my experience wasn’t fulfilling me in the way I had hoped. I spent a lot of time in college grieving – I had seven really close friends and family pass away within the span of three years. I lost my Grandfather in January of this year to COVID-19, which was a complete shock. After having lost so many people prior to him, I did not expect for his loss to be the hardest for me to deal with. This continuous grieving, alongside the crazy things going on in our country at the time (shootings, chaos in our country, and a pandemic) was difficult. 

My boyfriend was abroad and I began quarantine in my college apartment, struggling through accounting and business calculus. I spent all my time studying and had very little human interaction. I knew my friends missed me and they could tell I was not my happy self. I was never free to do anything because I was always at the library, I stopped going out on the weekends, I was constantly complaining about how much I hated school and my classes – most of what came out of my mouth was negative. It was such a contrast to who I was before, and everyone around me began to notice. I got so angry with my best friend just for asking nicely if I was okay and talking to anyone for help. I think my anger came from denial and my ego being offended that I was no longer seen a certain way. Not being the sunshine-y person I was known to be shook me to my core.

I felt a lot of pressure to uphold my happy-go-lucky reputation. I wanted so badly to bring that person back not just for my friends and family, but for myself, too. It is really easy to play the character of someone you have been your whole life, even when you no longer feel that way at all. I was still grieving the loss of my grandpa, stressed with finding jobs and with my school work, and busy with finishing up my junior year.

This past summer was probably the worst I’ve ever felt. My sister left for college, my summer job had left me unfulfilled, I was having a hard time getting along with my family, it rained a lot, and I just wasn’t that happy. Funnily enough, when I would run into people they would say “I’ve been keeping up with you on Instagram, you seem like you are thriving,” and I would smile and nod and laugh. Every picture I posted was showing a “picture perfect” life, but what people were not seeing was how I really felt all of the time. We only post what makes us seem 100 percent perfect, even though none of us really are.

It took me a while to realize that it is okay and beyond normal to be imperfect, to not always smile, to cry and  get upset. I believe it was Alexis Ren who said something along the lines of “happiness isn’t easy, it is a lot easier to be sad, you have to work (really hard) to be happy.” I have an amazing mentor who kept telling me “happiness is a choice” and at first, I would get frustrated that she acted like it was so easy. Being happy does take work, but  I got out of my ego and started doing small things each day that made me feel good. Eating something yummy for breakfast, going on a walk, journaling, working out, and taking time to do my skincare routine.  I’ve learned that life is a balance and you need the tough days to truly appreciate the good. There are always ways to make yourself feel better, and there are always going to be things that make you upset. That’s life.

There is a lot of pressure put on us when we’re expected to always be a certain archetype. But happy people get sad, kind people snap, mean people can be nice, selfless people can be selfish, and so on. I think it is important to have this contrast, and it’s also normal – we are human! Finally, I am at peace. I have had to learn to give myself the proper space to have the down moments and really feel those feelings. Doing so allows you to feel a deeper connection not only to yourself but to those around you. 

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