When I was in high school, I always thought it was weird that my father never smiles in his pictures. It was always curious that even though he usually smiles in person, very few photos show otherwise. I just never thought that I would know the answer a decade later.
Being sentimental, I’ve collected many ID pictures through the years. The earliest was when I was in Grade 6, and it continued until now.
Looking at those pictures, I can see the progression of my smile.
I am generally a lively person who loves to joke around and hope for the future, but suddenly my smile disappeared.
I think the first peak of that hope was before I graduated from college and has not yet returned. It was very surreal that whenever I see my wide smile and crow’s feet wrinkles of my eyes, I can still remember how I felt that the doors of opportunities would instantly open to meet my unrealistic expectations.
Where Did It All Go Wrong?
I’m not exactly sure when, but it was around the time after I passed the board exam. I thought that getting my license will bring happiness, but it did not. I didn’t even know how to react at that time, but I screamed anyway to mimic other people’s feeling of accomplishment.
A few months later, I was still unemployed even when I thought I should have been selected for a job. I think it was mostly pride and my unmet expectations that hurt me the most, and with it came disappointments – not just with myself, but with the current structure of the “system.”
I know that I was privileged to be given a chance to take formal education and make my parents proud. Still, just months after graduation, I was already disillusioned.
The feeling of “what should I do next?” was heartbreaking, and with it, my smile went away. After a few more months, I was finally employed – just not where I thought I would be.
That was when I finally realized the heartbreaking reality of adulthood and the responsibilities and expectations that come with it – along with that realization was my smile fading away.
Just like what Paramore said in a song, “Ain’t it fun living in the real world?”
I am finally sharing the world that my parents are living in. Gone are the days when I can just play and be merry. I need to be an adult.
Reclaiming my smile
A few years later, I succeeded in my bouts with quarter-life crisis and started living a more meaningful life. I am more alive than ever, knowing that God never left me when I felt down and utterly hopeless.
I can now laugh more freely, knowing that I am doing work with purpose – a higher calling than my previous soul-sucking job.
Find joy in the little things.
Looking at hindsight, I know that there are so many things that I might have done differently. It may be called regrets, but I’d instead call them valuable lessons.
There are so many beautiful things in life, and I learned to always look at the bright side. I know that the little things in life will gradually bring back my smile – not just in pictures but also with my heart.
If you also lose your smile, just keep holding on and trust that God will never leave you and forsake you. Keep the faith.