It was vegan chocolate ice-cream. How could I refuse?
On my last night in the Lion City, after taking a (terrifying!) whirl-of-a-tour around the Singapore Flyer with friends, I found myself at a different kind of crossroads: Should I buy the ice cream, or refuse as I always do?
I stalled under the tent of a circus-like sorbet shop, barely believing my eyes that a chocolate ice cream, no less, could fit all of my different dietary restrictions.
Licking the tester spoon just one more time, I couldn’t help but repeat myself: “This is so unbelievably good!”
“C’mon!” the seller grinned warmly, feeding off of my indecisive energy as any businessman must, “Something to remember Singapore by.”
I pulled out my wallet, briefly acknowledging then stubbornly dismissing the caloric intake for a single scoop of ice cream, and ordered the almost-chocolate. The result was heavenly.
A simple purchase for pleasure, sure, but something in me had shifted that last night in Singapore.
That was the night my young, yearning soul began to say “Yes” to enjoyment. Yes to food-inspired goodness. Yes to adorning myself in beautiful jewels, shoes, and gadgets, with intention — or just because I’ve thought about it, and I want to. Yes to pure, human joy.
I have long denied myself the pursuit of pure joy, for one reason or another.
I went for years without added sugar because I told myself our bodies really don’t “need” it. I subsequently spent those years denying myself any sort of sugar-coated experience with friends. I went even more years with much of the same old shoes, the same old clothes, because I was convinced that my 22 year-old self didn’t “need” any upgrades to her 13-year-old wear. (This is seriously, embarrassingly true.)
Didn’t “need,” or didn’t “deserve.” I told myself both were the same.
What I realized in this moment in Singapore, when I finally pursued the joy of an experience I will likely never get back, is that I have denied myself joy, pleasure, and comfort because I feel guilty that others do not have such an opportunity. I reigned in my life — for pride, for shame, or for whatever reason else — because of my age-old crippling fear: That I didn’t deserve it.
Clearly a sign of a blocked sacral chakra, if you ask me now.
So, what have I done to rectify this discovery since then?
For starters, I bought myself a new pair of desperately needed shoes for work. Then, a watch for personal wear; a book of FICTION from one of my favorite bookstores, for whenever-I-want-to-read reading; and a beautiful ring from a beautiful place in Singapore. A new pair of decorative earrings are on their way to Berkeley, and a VIP concert experience is waiting for me back in Columbus.
But it’s not just my wardrobe and a few accessories that’s taking an upgrade.
I’ve also learned to recognize and absorb the moments of pure joy happening all around me: watching the Engineering students at NSLC perform their group dance number together; discovering magical waves cresting at Lands End; trying new foods with new friends.
Remembering, too, all of the wonderful moments of joy that have highlighted my life in recent memory: finding a love for Aladdin The Musical; listening to the opening number of Hamilton: The Musical in Chicago with friends; hugging one of my closest Bobcats after sauntering across the graduation stage; seeing the California mountains for the first time, and loving them with all my heart.
This joy, this energy — it’s all around us.
I believe we can choose to engulf ourselves in suffering, choose to close ourselves off from pain or hardship, from feeling anything at all.
But we can also choose joy.
Choosing moments of goodness, of happiness, of silliness, of excitement — that’s the energy we need to come together as a world on the brink of war.
That’s the energy I want to pursue, now. I am choosing joy.