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I Asked 25 People About The Joys In Life…

[TW: This article discusses a few forms of trauma, predominantly sexual violence, substance use, addiction, and suicidal ideation.]

For the past year, many of our lives have been consumed by distance and fear as we have faced unprecedented challenges. Collectively, we have attempted to navigate a pandemic, persistent and pervasive racism, and a divisive political climate. These external struggles have led to increased rates of anxiety, depression, and loneliness, which many people believe they must battle alone. With so much behind us and an uncertain future ahead, I asked 25 people to reflect on what makes them strong, resilient, unique, and proud. Their responses indicate that perhaps we are more alike than we are different. Here’s what they said:

Describe the happiest moment of your life (so far)

HF: “Little moments and things, cuddling with a boy, walking my dog, cooking breakfast”

EO: “My brother recovering from his addiction”

ES: “When the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2017”

PI: “Learning to accept & embrace self-love”

SH: “Getting into graduate school”

PJM:Getting accepted into college

EL: “I can't remember one specific moment of my life that would necessarily be the happiest moment of my life. However, I have had a bunch of very happy moments in my life. All of these very happy moments tend to be while I am around the people I love the most, my family and friends.”

CS: “I can't choose 1, but seeing a movie or TV show I really love is when I’m the happiest”

MNR: “Taking the first shower in Rome, Italy when studying abroad. Epic.”

ELC: “When I was on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean”

CN: “Summer 2019”

NG: “When I hit a home run against the best team in the state. My dad (who has memory loss) was able to be there and it's one of few things he remembers.”

SN: “There was a moment while I was tripping acid when it kind of clicked that this is life and that everything will be okay. That was the happiest moment cause it changed my mindset about what I NEED to “accomplish” in life.”

JAM: “It’s a rather difficult one as life has been criminally dreary of late. This definitely has some effect on my ability to recall the happiest moment of my life. I usually think back to being a kid, around the age of 8 or 9. Not one particular moment but a series of them. My fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Black, would play “Here Comes The Sun” by the Beatles for us every morning as we got ready for class. I can’t ever think back to those moments and not feel some sort of relief.”

MAC: “This is difficult because I’ve been alive for a while! I’m going to say my wedding day, not because it was a perfect day or anything, but it was the happy result of many difficult choices and hard work. And most of all the good things that have happened to me are because I made it down the aisle (on the arm of my Mom!)”

XC: “The day my puppy came home”

LFL: “Getting into Howard for grad school.”

What do you love about yourself?

HF: “I love my optimism and outgoingness”

EO: “My eyebrows”

PI: All of the character development I’ve been through and the person I am now as a result of that process.”

SH: My ability to understand people”

PJM: My ability to bring people together”

EL: “I am learning to love a lot more about myself. One thing I love about myself is my eyes. I also love my sense of humor.”

CS: My awareness and compassion”

MNR: “I love my sense of humor and ability to make people laugh”

CA: “My compassion, kindness, and understanding toward others”

ELC: “My brain”

EC: “I love my compassion for others”

CN: “My ability to be myself”

EMS: “My empathy”

HAM: “I love my confidence, my body, and my intelligence”

NG: “I love my heart. I have a huge heart and I’m a big softy!”

SN: “That I have a kind heart with good intentions to all people. Staying kind in a cruel world is difficult.”

JAM:I love my ability to write and my ability to dress. I never feel like I am following a normality in fashion, and when I do I will admit it shamelessly and not feel too embarrassed about it. I dress cozy and attractive, I have an everlasting desire to always just be me, and unapologetically so. I have spent a lot of time writing in my life. I would like to think this has paid off a bit! People say they admire my writing and I suppose I admire it too. Every now and then I will put out a piece that really feels like ‘me.’ So I love that about myself.”

LC: “I love how when I smile so much that I can’t keep my mouth closed, or how I wheeze if I laugh too hard. I love how I can laugh at literally anything, and how I can make other people laugh.”

II: “My kindness”

MAC: “I have an open heart and a keen brain”

XC: “My resilience”

LFL: “My hair”

If you could relive one moment, what would it be?

HF:the last time I saw my grandmother before she passed”

EO:January 7th”

PI:Points when I was genuinely happy - no drugs, alcohol, stress, etc”

SH:none tbh, all my happy moments are good to me the way they are”

PJM:I wouldn't”

EL: I would relive my senior year of high school. It was the most draining period of my life, and what happened during it still affects me now. If I approached it differently, maybe things wouldn't have happened the way they did.”

CS: “Seeing my favorite movie in theaters”

MNR: “Too many to even pick one :)”

ELC: “Being on that sailboat”

CN: “Summer 2019”

EMS: “My trip to Europe”

NG: “Hitting that home run”

SN: “The first time my last ex told me he loved me, I felt that he meant it and I would do anything to feel loved again.”

JAM: “Oh, there’s loads. I’d like to sit down with Andre Talley again. He was a really great individual and even though I was pulled over on the way to his house, I’d still do that morning the same way over. I wouldn’t change a thing! I recently created a collage that was really dear to me. I put my whole self into it for three or four days and didn’t let anyone bother me about it. I don’t think people realized how happy it made me to just be focused on finishing that. I’d love to relive the bliss I felt when I finished it.”

LC: “When my dance teacher said that his friend (the friend had subbed for our class one time) thought that I had everything it took to be a dancer. He said that ‘there was this one girl who was so into it and in her own element. She was so enthusiastic and it was great.’”

MAC: “The last 24 hours of my Mom’s life. Not to recreate it, but to change it.”

LFL: “Being in Texas with my family when I was younger because some of the most important people in my life were still alive.”

What do you hope to be remembered for?

HF: Changing the world”

EO: My generosity”

ES: Enjoying life, being able to make anyone laugh”

PI: “My accomplishments”

SH: “Being a good friend and an even better person”

PJM: “That my heart is genuine”

EL: “I hope to be remembered for my character. I hope people remember me as bright and funny and a joy to be around.”

CS: “My kindness”

MNR: “Being kind and fun to be around”

CA: “Helping others!”

ELC: “My sense of humor and unique personality”

CN: “Being myself”

HAM: “My intelligence and being kind”

NG: “My big heart and for always going over and beyond”

SN: “My kindness and generosity”

JAM: “I’ve been asking myself this a lot recently! We are getting to that stage of life where my hair might start falling out, my posture may start to bend a bit more, and my heart can become a bit more desiring of the simpler things. I’d just like to be remembered as someone who did what they loved all the time. I changed my major a couple of times, just to try to get this right. I feel like I am nearly at the point where I am on the right path to truly getting it right.”

LC: “As a well-rounded person. Someone that would do anything to help, someone who could make people laugh, someone who cares, but most of all just someone who lived.”

II: “My generosity”

MAC: “For helping kids when I could, for being kind.”For helping kids when I could, for being kind.

XC: “I hope I change/help someone’s life one day, and they look back and know that I gave everything to let them know they’re loved, safe & protected.”

LFL: “Having a happy life”

If you were given 1 million dollars what would you spend it on?

HF: Probably invest in my education and save for the future”

EO:A home and my family”

PI: “Investments in technology”

SH: “My family”

PJM: “A house”

EL: “I think I would definitely start by doing a little shopping haul. I would then use it to pay off loans and give money to my family if they needed it. I hope I could put some in a savings account. I would want to donate a portion of it as well.”

CS: “Help my family first, then a place to live”

MNR: “I would save a lot of it for buying a home and invest some into amazon stock probably”

CA: “Pay off debt and buy my mom her dream beach house”

ELC: “I’d pay off college debt and then buy a puppy”

CN: “A cat or dog”

EMS: “I would travel the world and learn about its people”

HAM: “First a car, then stocks/savings”

NG: “A new house for my mom and dad”

SN: “Give it back to parents and pay off debts”

JAM:Debts! That one is rather easy. The rest of it I would allocate amongst friends and all. Then I would likely splash out on material things. I do hate material things sometimes, but I do not think society is at the point where they have overcome their fixation with material. And they certainly won’t in my lifetime!”

CM: “I would save lots, donate, and spend on a few expensive things.”

II: “Real estate, property”

MAC:To make sure my kids with special needs would be okay after I die. And to help organizations that fight the good fight.”

XC: “Probably my mama, then probably some dog rescues.”

LFL: “Pay for grad school, pay off my mom’s house, my great aunt’s bills, invest with some, find a charity to donate the rest to.”

Who has made the greatest impact on your life?

HF: “My mom”

AL: “My ex”

EO:My mom and brother”

PI: “My mentors”

SH: “My friends”

PJM: “My dad”

EL: “My parents”

CS: “It is impossible to pick one, but my high school film teacher had a huge impact”

MNR: “My parents”

CA: “My parents”

ELC: “My sister and my boyfriend”

CN: “My friends”

EMS: “My mother”

HAM: “Myself”

NG: “My mom”

SN: “My mother”

JAM: Somewhere between my mother and my closest friends. My mother was a single mom for most of my life, or at least the important bits. She can be really rubbish but hey, so can I. It is when we aren't that way that really matters!! I’ve got a friend in Philadelphia who changed my life. I never thought I would have a forever friend and I spent most of my life chasing friends. She taught me to be myself. I would hear about conversations between her, my other friend Mary, and my mom where she spoke really lovely things about me. How I was always myself and just being who I wanted to be. She doesn’t know that I know she said those things but her words helped me through a lot of really difficult times. Sometimes just being there is enough, sometimes I didn’t want to speak about anything and she knew that. I love her and my mom endlessly.”

CM: “Jesus Christ”

LC: “My friends, specifically my two closest L and B. They help me through everything, and we consider ourselves to be a trio. I don’t know where I would be without them.”

II: “My best friend”

MAC: “My mom and my husband”

XC: “My dad. He’s not here anymore, but he influences every choice I make.”

LFL: “My mother”

What are you most thankful for?

HF: “My family”

EO: “My brother”

ES:Love and support from my family”

PI: “Everything”

SH: “To be alive”

PJM:Good beer and good times”

EL: “I am most thankful for my upbringing, and the life that my parents were able to provide for myself and my siblings. They sacrificed a lot for us, and I am so thankful for it.”

CS: “My friends and family (cliche I know)”

MNR: “My family, friends, and boyfriend”

CA: “The opportunity to wake up every day and try again”

ELC: “My amazing life”

CN: “People”

NG: “My mom”

SN: “Not having it worse”

JAM: “I often think about the comfort I find myself living in. I am really thankful for this. In another life, I could have been someone else entirely and not have access to the things that I do.”

CM: “My faith”

II: “Having a healthy life”

MAC: “My family”

XC: “This life, and my second chance at it.”

LFL: “My mom because she’s the reason I’m alive today”

**Responses for this article were received anonymously and voluntarily. Participants were asked to provide initials, however, it did not have to be their actual initials; therefore, the initials above may or may not be real. Furthermore, participants were not required to answer all questions; they could pick and choose based on their level of comfort. Some responses have been edited for spelling and grammatical errors.**

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