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This must be the place: Call it living the dream, call it kicking the ladder

Why does it seem we’re all so unhappy these days? 

Is it that we’re just more aware of our emotions and live in an age where — whether it’s socially acceptable or not — we lay everything out on the table? Is it the technology in our hands and our pockets we constantly post and scroll for subconscious self-value? Is it all the yelling, bickering and division constantly thrown in our face from TV, radio and the internet?

Well, truth-be-told, it’s all of the above. It really is. Coming into 2019, I myself was at an emotional crossroads, debating my next move, questioning all the decisions in my life that led to the “here and now.” And yet, as I wandered down the Facebook stream, it seemed everyone else was in my boat, too — emotionally exhausted and spiritually spent. 

Aside from the advent of the internet, two specific things have brought us to this point in our society: celebrity culture/consumption and the 24-hour news cycle. Yep. That’s our entire digital landscape distilled into a two-headed monster, seeing as the idea of celebrity and the power of politics are not mutually exclusive. 

But, the question remains: is there more chaos today or are we just focusing on it more? From my perspective, it’s the latter. We’re focusing on it more. For example, how many documentaries and series about serial killers and bloody wars pre-Internet keep popping up on Netflix and Hulu? Madness and mayhem has always run alongside the evolution of humanity. 

Heck, if you really (really, really) study your American history, you’ll see that everything we think is a huge social issue and/or epidemic today, well, was just as much — if not more — a problem back in the day. Plain and simple, a frame of unimpeded historical reference is worth its weight in gold, whether it be in casual conversation or simply making important decisions as in how to vote and being “the change you want to see in the world,” as they say.

That said, America has never been great. We’ve had moments of greatness, but, in essence, we’ve been a rough-and-tumble work-in-progress since our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. 

So, skip ahead some 243 years to where we stand today, a time and place where fear and paranoia triggers your anxiety each day and from every direction. Remember what President Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 

And we get so consumed with what everyone else is doing that we easily lose sight at how much love and gratitude we have in our own lives. Scroll through other “more successful” peoples’ profiles, constant FOMO (fear of missing out) seeping into your thought process. The grass is always greener on the other side. And there’s also dog shit on that lawn, too, no matter how pristine it may appear from afar.

And there it is: “appearance versus reality.” The age-old battle between what you’re told and what actually is. Smoke and mirrors, where you find yourself whining, “Why can’t I have my cake and eat it, too?” 

The choices in life, those options we see and crave, are usually what they seem to be at first glance — too good to be true. Turn off the phone. Log out of the social media account. Even for a day. Take inventory of your own life and surroundings. 

Sure, there will always be things you want to change about yourself and your existence, which is fine, because self-improvement and spiritual evolution as a human being is a great thing. 

But, remember, that doesn’t mean you should look into a full-body mirror and tear yourself apart because you’re not a “social media influencer” splashing the waves on some exotic white sand beach with curves that bikini companies seemingly use as a design template.

So, the original sentiment circles back: “Why does it seem we’re all so unhappy these days?” In many cases, we are sadder than past generations, and a lot of it comes at the hands of ourselves, literally. 

Leave the phone in your car and go for a walk in the woods, immersing yourself in the recharging powers of Mother Nature — none of us purposely live here in Western North Carolina to sit inside all day. Know your self-worth, where you’re actually a lot further along in your journey than what meets-the-eye, so long as you never lose sight of what it is you really want to do with your time on this earth.

And most importantly — make daily connections. Strike up a conversation with a stranger next to you. Make a new friend. Expand your horizons. Don’t adhere to the same route you take every day. Switch it up. Go to new places. Try new things. 

Don’t feed into the urge of seeing what everyone else is doing on Instagram and Facebook. Do positive things for yourself. Be selfless. And truly be compassionate towards others known or unknown, all while rekindling that fire within, a smile returning to the natural beauty of the one thing nobody but you can possess — your heart and soul. 

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

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