In the past few weeks, three words have consistently been in the back of my mind and different scenarios around me have made me take a pause and reflect on quite a few things.
With the pandemic still raging (due to the delta variant of Covid-19), many people have had to learn a different way of living or make adjustments. Whether it is tightening their financial belts, learning a new trade, taking on a second job, or consolidating households, there have been many changes to people’s ways of life across the globe. There are additionally more responsibilities than bringing in a check. What my parents taught me has always been in the back of my head. “Where you are in your life is the direct result of your choices.” The notion of this has always been a truth for me. I have made some questionable decisions in my life. These questionable decisions have always resulted in less than favorable (or some of them even dumpster-fire level) results. But they have all been situations where I learned something, so it was not a total waste.
Even as adults, people tend to blame their current status on situations from their childhood or their parent’s choices. What we tend to do is not think about how our choices affect everything. I repeat, our choices affect everything. They affect us personally, in business, our friends, our families, our children, how others view us, whether people trust us, and our ability to relate to others. Our outward choices fuel the perceptions that others have about us and how they choose to deal (or not to) with us. Even though many of us don’t emphasize what others think about us (present company included), we must admit that everyone’s reputation precedes them. If you are known for being a shady businessperson, people won’t want to do business with you regardless of whether you care about your reputation or not. It will also affect your bottom line. This is only one example of how reputation affects more than an individual’s personal life. A person’s choices affect EVERYTHING. A fictitious example of how choices made can skew an individual’s perception of what the REAL cause for their issue is shown below:
Scenario: Black women/men saying there are no good black men/women available.
I get it; there is a perceived shortage of “desirable” black men in the United States (women not so much, we get diminished in other ways). As an educated, responsible, self-reliant, single black woman, I can honestly say that most of this perception is because of individual choices. Women say that they can’t find a man to “do right.” That causes me to ask, what do you mean by “do right”? Do you mean a man that will treat you as well as you treat him? Do you mean a man that loves you even with all your faults and weird shit? Do you mean a man that will pay all your bills so that you can spend your money as you wish (there are women like this, ya’ll)? When a man says the same, you have to wonder if their actual situation is that they have literally “run through” all their available options because they did not value the women in their lives during those times and utilized them for what they wanted at the moment. Are these men just assholes who don’t want to work on their character issues? Because that is what keeps them from successfully coupling.
If I’m going to keep it funky, I would say that the scenario above is directly related to the choices of men and women. I genuinely believe that what you put out there comes back to you. If you choose to mistreat people and not be accountable for those choices, it will be returned to you in that same manner. I can’t marry a man, cheat on him endlessly, sleep with a bunch of other women’s husbands and then turn around and expect a man I may be interested in to not have questions as to my previous behavior. He should because that man deserves the opportunity to decide whether he wants to put up with my shenanigans and life choices or not.
That directly links to the decision to be happy. I have long held that happiness is a choice. No matter where I am or what I am going through in my personal life, I choose to be happy or not. If you let external situations affect your decision to keep your emotional well-being intact, that should signal an issue that needs addressing. I have had to learn that whatever is going on in my life, I have to choose to be happy because an unhappy life is exhausting and can cause depression. Not choosing to be happy can create a situation where you aren’t truly living life to your fullest. Not realizing that you are choosing something other than being happy can affect your relationships. In some cases, not choosing to be happy can cause incessant complaining. I was there, I complained about everything. When I realized it, I realized that it was annoying and stopped. No one wants to be around a constant complainer draining all the energy out of the room.
It was choosing to be happy that affected a lot of my life. I was coming off a divorce, experiencing single parenting for the first time, and a whole host of other things that were supposed to be depressing. Honestly, I could not deal with it that way, and once I saw a pattern developing, I had to nip it in the bud to keep it from becoming a huge issue. Being able to choose to be happy is freeing and very much part of “adulting.”
Finally, the responsibility aspect of our lives includes a combination of how we feel and the choices we make. The dictionary definition of responsibility is the quality or state of being responsible: a) moral, legal, or mental accountability and b) RELIABILITY, TRUSTWORTHINESS (shout out to Meriam Webster’s online dictionary).
In that definition lives everything I have discussed in this blog post. It ties everything together for me on these topics. First, that mental accountability is a big deal. You have to be able to account for your actions, decisions, and opinions in a manner that includes your ability to be mentally capable. The inability to take accountability for anything signals a mental health issue. Maybe not to the point where you need to be medicated, but you may want to sit down and discuss the constraints keeping you from seeing a straightforward way to accountability with someone. The inability to do this denies the experience of self-reflection necessary to grow and adjust. In short, a “responsible” person understands that their choices matter and have long-term effects, so they choose wisely. That includes choosing to be happy and maintaining accountability for the choices they make. That accountability cannot rest in “I’ve asked for forgiveness.” Responsibility includes awareness of actions through self-reflection, the choice to ask forgiveness of those wronged if possible, and the changing of behavior that leads to the wrong decisions.
I said all this to say, to be happy and responsible are choices. Please choose wisely.