Coping like John Green

john green teaches us how to cope with pain and the importance of it

"It hurts because it matters."

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Life sucks sometimes. We go along living our day to day lives until something shitty happens and we wonder how something so horrible could happen to us. It's true, I've been there. Things completely out of my control have messed me up and I constantly wonder what I did to deserve it. The truth is, sometimes I've done everything right. Life simply takes its own course and as much as we like to believe we have ultimate control, it's not always up to us to decide what happens. At this point, I would take matters into my own hands by opening Pinterest, like the white girl I am, and search for quotes that fuel my misery. It's ironic to think sad quotes would somehow make me feel better, but I always came across words that made sense; the only reason I got hurt is that I cared too much. It became simple: to solve my problems I would have to invest less in people and things to ensure I never got hurt again.

This change of mind causes a fork in the road, to continue caring and occasionally suffer or to become a new person, consumed with not feeling anything. Some may pick the latter, but as John Green once said, "It hurts because it matters." Effort, empathy, and anything that makes us human tends to hurt us at some point. Things don't go as planned. People break your heart and you're left feeling empty. But it becomes all about perspective and the way you handle the situation. We choose to give meaning to things; if we didn't, no one would put energy into chores and commitments. John made the point that things suck, we all know they do, but the reason that they do is that something was important to us and went awry. Whether we lost something or had it taken away from us, at once point it made us feel whole. It brought happiness to our lives even if it was only temporary.

The importance isn't to dwell on the hurting, it's to acknowledge the pain, feel it in its entirety and be grateful that something had the power to make you feel as awful as it did. That means it mattered. Moving forward, we can ignore that feeling of wholeness, or we can continue to love the things that make us happy and risk getting hurt. It all depends on if it's worth it. John Green thinks it is, and so do I. To feel happy, we need to experience pain, not consistently, but on occasion. And maybe not to understand happiness, but to know when we experience it and to appreciate when it's there.

Cover Image Credit:

Caleb Woods

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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My First College Gal Pal Road Trip Was Amazing

Every girl should have one good girls trip.

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In some way or another, everybody has a list of things they want to do in their lives before it's all over. After all, we're human. There's adventure to be had in every life. One thing I have always wanted to do before I grew too old and grey was go on a road trip with my gal pals to the beach. A couple weeks ago, I achieved this memorable milestone, and it allowed me to open up to new surroundings and experiences.

On this trip, I went with two of my friends from college, Kait and Lindsey, to visit my roommate Elizabeth in Virginia Beach. This was pretty big for Lindsey and I because neither of us had been to Virginia Beach before. Thankfully Elizabeth and Kait knew their way around the city, so we never got lost on our way to and fro.

Like most vacations, my favorite parts probably took place at the beach. I'm always at utter peace stomping through mushy sand or leaning down to splash the salty water that tries to knock my short self over. We took pictures and did something us college girls rarely have time to do especially in school: Relax.

The four of us did not live up to the crazed stereotype of girl trips in movies. Although I finally got a chance to sing along to Taylor Swift in a car ride with my friends, so that's always a plus. We played "Top Golf" one day, and by some miracle, I actually won the second game by a fair amount after much humiliation in the first one. We visited some of Elizabeth's family, and I finally got to meet her giant dog Apollo (I call him 'Wolf Dog'). Everyday was another chance to ask with enthusiasm: "So what are we doing today?"

Our trip wasn't like the movies where we all cried or confessed our deepest darkest secrets. Everything the four of us shared was laughter and this calm feeling of being at home, in the chaotic peace of each other's company. We understand each other a little better due to finally seeing what we're like outside of Longwood University. After this, all I can say is that we're most definitely planning the next one!

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