What is the most important thing to you?
C A I T L I N
Having been assigned the task to write one page about the most important thing in my life, there are far too many words that come to mind and far too many topics I could easily talk about for far more than just one page. The list includes and extends well beyond Jesus, politics, ethical clothing (and how feminists or anyone seeking equality, should be wearing ethical clothing), the science supporting faith and faith supporting science, the beauty, and humility that comes from learning and drawing alongside people different to you and appreciating new and different cultures. All these things, I’ve rambled on about in notes on my phone, scribbled somewhere in my planner and in monologues I internally perform on bus rides or car trips.
But after brain storming about what would be the sole most important thing that I could share about my life, it would have started with the idea of pursuing joy and mental health. This includes building and maintaining fruitful relationships with family, friends and the community and supporting and being supported to pursue joy and emotional health.
I’m a firm believer in the importance of looking after yourself. That success, grades, money, and status are nowhere near as important as feeling whole and empowered. I think the world often looks at life as a series of stages and milestones – many of which are good and exciting – but I personally don’t want to just be happy because I tick all the boxes of a good life, I want to be happy because I actively pursue it in my life.
I pursue joy in many little things – a good cup of tea (or a series of cups of tea throughout a day), through a nice morning walk or a late afternoon run. Through painting and drawing and writing. Through less creative means like reading or just learning about the world (cue TED talks and scishow on youtube). In fact, learning is one of those things that makes me feel so much more whole (studying is a completely different ball game). In learning about the world I find so much more awe in creation and in learning I challenge myself constantly to adopt new perspectives. Challenging myself and expanding my comfort zone is another way I try to pursue joy.Even an introvert like me finds joy in connection and socializing with others. Maybe not in the large parties but definitely in coffee dates, phone calls and the sadly far-too-rare but vulnerable and heart warming conversations you can have with people who once unimaginably were strangers.
Even an introvert like me finds joy in connection and socializing with others. Maybe not in the large parties but definitely in coffee dates, phone calls and the sadly far-too-rare but vulnerable and heart warming conversations you can have with people who once unimaginably were strangers.
Something that recently brought me joy was a long conversation with a complete stranger I had as we happened to walk the length of town together. She struck up a conversation about a coat I was wearing and as it was op shopped, we soon started talking about second-hand clothing, sweat shops, ethical clothing (and specific unethical brands), vegans (which she was and I am not), slavery and finally psychology (which I study). It’s funny how two very different people can find so many shared interest and connections if they just try.
Another moment that brought me joy longer ago was a tramp I did with my dad in the Tararua ranges up to Kime hut which is about 1500m above sea level. Being in the bush is so healing for me, working hard and exercise makes me feel very alive and then cooking a meal over a gas stove, and drinking hot chocolate and eating marshmallows as the sun sets and the stars appear refreshes, my soul. In those moments I feel so far away from any human troubles (specifically university troubles) and feel so much closer to the God I believe in.
I think that we don’t emphasize joy and mental health enough. It seems to me that the more we look after ourselves and the more aware we are that our mood and disposition can improve or deteriorate depending on how we choose to spend our time or how we choose to think, the more we are able to achieve and the more at peace we feel. I also believe that when everyone is individually aware of how to take care of themselves, as a result, we support and give a voice to those who are struggling (be it from loneliness, isolation, abuse, neglect, health, mental illnesses or anything else).
Basically, I believe that the more our communities emphasize a culture of self-awareness in terms of mental health and pursuing joy, the less stigma those who are struggling face in seeking help.
The great irony of all this is that I believe that there is also a cheat to the system. I can pursue happiness and joy and mental health as much as I want but the simplest and reliable way to get it is to come to the cross and ask Jesus for it. It doesn’t take hiking up mountains or countless cups of tea; it takes the humility of admitting your wrongs and asking for his forgiveness presence in your life. I believe that Jesus can bring full healing and full health and that in him we can receive so much more joy than I can attain on my own. He gives me not only the vacation-like joy I feel sitting on a beach or tramping up a mountain, but he also gives me joy in the mundane and joy in pursuing causes worth pursuing.
This is the most important thing in my life; pursuing peace, joy, love, health and all such good things and knowing that even when I fail at this and at looking after myself, Jesus is able to come and heal me.
See, it’s not about me being perfectly happy 100% of the time, that’s unrealistic. It’s about me choosing Jesus and choosing his joy even in the midst of my pain. That is the most important thing in my life because it’s a mindset I have to try and adopt every day afresh.