Great Expectations of Everyday People

Dawn Stergin
4 min readDec 30, 2020

Do you believe you should be feeling happy?

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

When I was in my twenties, I was fairly lost and confused. I had grown up with that feeling that everyone else knew things that I didn’t and had it all together. At twenty-four I quit drinking and my life changed, dramatically. But this is not an article about drinking or sobriety. For the next few years, I began to mature and learn about myself and the world I lived in. I found a career I loved. I had friends. I discovered who I actually was and that most people, especially those in their twenties, do not have their shit together so completely. I did not miss out on any manual that was passed out in homeroom on the day I was late.

A therapist once said to me, “Life is much more ambiguous than you realize.” I had been bemoaning the fact that I never had a plan for life, that my messed up parents had not taught me anything important and that I was simply tossing about on the sea of life. She asked me what I meant by a plan. I described people I had known in college who had always known they would go to college, mom and dad paid for it, knew what they would major in and what job they wanted after, and got the car for graduation and the job, and went off happily living life. Meanwhile, college was never mentioned in my family. My mother wanted me to marry a doctor or engineer. My father just wanted me to “get a job!” This was all they knew about life. I’m guessing this was all they knew about how to feel good about themselves and their lives. The truth was they were miserable. Divorced, hateful, bitter, frightened people.

Abe Lincoln said that people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. Many self-help authors and inspirational speakers and coaches talk about the importance of a positive attitude. Happiness is a skill. When you feel happy, review what lead to that moment and do that again. I like to add that when you most need to keep a positive attitude is when it is most difficult to do so. Some days, we just don’t feel good. Some years, like 2020, are terrible. Bad things happen and we feel, well…bad.

The incredible unknowns of life in a pandemic are enough to create fear, anxiety, anger, etc. This is in addition to the normal angst of ordinary life. Many people have lost their jobs or the routines of working on site. Many…

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Dawn Stergin

Former addictions counselor, empty-nester, activist, animal lover, writer and lover of what it means to be human.