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Unsolicited Advice: Stop Letting Life Just Happen To You

(Sun Qiang and Poo Muming/Chinese Academy of Sciences via AP)

Last week I found myself trying to unfurl my confused brow when the White House posted this bizarre tweet.

Not only did I not know what “Sunday scaries” meant, I was almost positive neither of the people in this picture did either. Naturally I sent my inquiry across Twitter and soon came to discover that the “Sunday scaries” is a millennial term used to describe the existential dread when one wakes up on a Sunday morning, realizing Monday is the beginning of another soul-crushing work week. The Urban Dictionary defines it as thus:

The feeling you have after a long week of work followed by a Saturday full of binge drinking, when Sunday hits you question your entire existence. Typically characterized by laying in bed all day and both regretting past decisions and questioning your seemingly non-existent future. Thoughts like “I”m going to die alone” and “Will I ever get a job that I actually enjoy?” consume you for the entire day while you’re battling a hangover.

I tweeted something snarky about millennials and their incessant need to label every single feeling they have, as if they are the first people to invent the idea of hating Mondays or worrying about the future. I recognize that millennials are now adults but it feels easy to speak of them (and I understand it’s a gross generalization) as though they are teens trapped in adult bodies. I find their generational outlook to be disturbingly juvenile (again, not all…but many).

But that’s not really what bothered me the most about this tweet from the White House and the ensuing ridicule and arguments about the value of the millennial mindset. What bothers me the most is the idea that there are so many people who are so resigned to misery that a generation has actually made up a name for it.

Millennials – and everyone else – please listen to me.

You don’t need to lay in bed every Sunday and dread the future. Not that you’re not entitled once in a while. Hell, life is hard and even the people who love their work hate it now and then. We all experience that feeling of not being in control of our own happiness.

That feeling is a self-indulgent lie. It doesn’t need a name or a label. It doesn’t have to be your fate. It can be a fleeting thought or moment. It should be. Because the truth of the matter is, you are in charge of your own happiness. You are in charge of your future. You are in charge of your development.

Too many of you are sitting around passively letting life happen to you. This circumstance comes along and then that circumstance follows and instead of making active decisions to guide the direction of your life, you just lay on your back and let the current decide where you go. Then you wonder why you’re never happy, never fulfilled, never enjoying your work or your relationships. You wonder how you got into this strained marriage or terrible job. You wonder why you can’t ever seem to find satisfaction when everyone around you seems to be doing just fine (another lie).

Labeling the perfectly normal feeling of dreading the work week is just another way to release yourself of the responsibility of taking the reins of your own life. You make it a “condition” rather than a decision. It’s another way of letting life just happen to you. It’s another way of running from the hard work active living.

That’s right. Many of you have stopped making active decisions and instead have let the decisions of others happen to you; but life is not something that is meant to just happen. Life is living and living denotes an active participation in something. It requires transactional relationships, decisive moves, thoughtfulness. You do not get to dump the responsibility of happiness onto other humans or circumstances and then wallow in your misery because nothing is going your way. If you’re not steering the car, you’re definitely not getting to your destination.

We all have our moments, but the “Sunday scaries” should not be a lifestyle. Certainly not one that is so common it needs a name. You live in the greatest country on earth. You are wealthy by the standards of nearly every other nation, with only a few exceptions. You are educated. You are free. Your career is not dictated to you, you get to choose. The healthiness of your relationships is not dictated to you, you get to choose which ones bring you the most satisfaction and you get to choose which ones to walk away from. You get to choose where you live, who you let into your life, how you view the world.

If you’re laying around on a Sunday wondering when you will find a fulfilling job or when you’ll find a loving partner or when you’ll finally be happy in your marriage or when you’ll finally have enough money to be happy (lol), just know that the common denominator in all this is you.

The lie of life in modern America is that if we just follow a certain algorithm we will find contentment. Contentment is not something that comes from circumstances, it is something that begins within. I once read an interview with a group of pastors who had been jailed in Iran for evangelizing and held for over a year in torturous conditions. They were eventually released and made their way back to the United States. One of the men recounted the deep depression he felt after regaining his freedom. He said that in a bizarre way, he sometimes wished he was back in that cell, because he had never felt so close to God as he did then. Those men had been stripped of the distractions of modern life, and were forced to come to terms with the idea that peace would not be something they could buy. Peace was a choice they would have to make in order to survive. So when everything seemed hopeless they chose to go find peace even though their circumstances were not at all peaceful.

Those men were prisoners and still found a way to take responsibility for their own peace of mind.

You are not a prisoner. You are a free American and any chains around your arms are of your own making. Even in the worst of circumstances that are beyond your control, you still have the power to decide how to handle them, how to move forward, how to forgive yourself or others. It’s all you.

If your job crushes your soul, figure out what will feed you and pursue it. If your relationship is stressful and unfulfilling, figure out how to change it or leave. If your purpose feels out of reach, figure out how to clarify it. You may be saying, “It’s not that easy. I have this obstacle and that one.”

That is the protest of a person who wants the good things to just happen to them. No, it isn’t easy. Yes, it requires incredible sacrifice. You are not entitled to happiness. It is something you pursue and pursuit takes stamina and training and sweat. Stop making excuses. Nothing good is easy. Would you want it to be anyway?

Ask yourself if the “Sunday scaries” are just your way of justifying your own inaction in your own life.

Stop trying to run from your own indecisiveness.

Stop letting life just happen to you.