By: Shawn Smith
When I was 17, my girlfriend and I had a rough breakup. I thought it was the end of the world and moped around for days. Finally, sick of seeing me being so negative, my mom told me that I would survive and that life gives us challenges so we can come out a better, stronger person. She said I shouldn’t concentrate on the negative, and instead, when faced with a challenge I should focus on the positives. I learned the hard way; it takes a lot of work to constantly be a positive person.
A few years ago, I faced the most difficult struggle of my life: dealing with the passing of my mom from cancer. She fought a long battle, and despite the overwhelming odds, she persevered to the very end. I remember she was in a coma in the hospital for an entire summer, and although doctors said over and over that she would not make it, one day she woke up. When I walked into her room to see if she was really awake, the first thing she did was smile.
My mother was my best friend. But at her funeral, I remembered that she wouldn’t want us to be sad, and as hard as it was, I smiled and remembered her positivity and outgoing personality. She wouldn’t have wanted us crying, but instead laughing and remembering all the good times we had. I do my best to make her proud on a daily basis and that includes being a positive person, no matter how hard life gets at times.
I’m not saying you have to go out and change your personality. I do, however, recommend stepping out of your comfort zone every once in a while. Smile more and frown less. Life is a stupid, beautiful, boring, amazing experience, and we only get to do it once. You can spend it thinking about the “what if’s,” or you could go out and make the best of it.
It’s easy to focus on the negatives in life. Focusing on the positives takes courage. But I promise you, life is so much more rewarding when you do not focus on the negative. If you get a bad grade on an exam, don’t let it stress you out. There will be other exams. There may be opportunities for extra credit. If you are dealing with a bad breakup, remember that people still love you for who you are. Family, who can sometimes be a pain in the butt, are these amazing people who are always there for you when you really need them.
Life will kick you when you’re down. It will pummel you until you feel like you can’t take it and then pummel you some more. Learn to just go with it. Some things are out of our control, as much as we would like them to be. Focus on what you can control. So you got a bad grade on an exam? Next time, study a little more and spend a little less time on Facebook or Reddit. I admit, I tend to get sucked into YouTube, and the next thing I know, five hours have passed, and I’ve watched every cat video available online. But if you actively focus on making every experience you have a positive one, things will get better!
Positivity can open up opportunities that you may not have even known about on campus. When I got to college, I initially thought I would go to class and that was it. But by opening myself up to new experiences, not all of them good, I was able to find my way in the University and make an impact on other peoples lives. Being positive has helped mold me into a leader, not only on campus, but in my personal life as well. Helping others and giving back to the community is much more rewarding than anything I could receive. If you are looking for ways to positively impact the community, start by just saying hello to someone on the bus. It may just change your life!
Shawn Smith is a senior at Rutgers University studying Journalism and Media Studies with a minor in General Anthropology. He is a site leader for the 2014 First-Year Leadership Alternative Break to Washington D.C., a Morale Captain for Dance Marathon and a Correspondent for The Daily Targum. Shawn also gives up his birthday every year for charity: water, an organization dedicated to solving the water crisis. He is always looking for ways to volunteer and inspire others!