Throughout this last week, it seems I have been bombarded with some things that have, in a way, rocked my boat. Between the craziness of increasing academic stress, demanding life choices, and a good ol' case of strep throat (thank you college germs!), my head has been spinning...both figuratively and literally.

However, between all of the chaos and the anxieties, I cannot help but be filled with complete gratitude.

Gratitude? It may seem odd, but yes, I am indeed in a state of complete thankfulness for everything in my life in this present moment.

Because everything I have right now is shaping, molding, and forming me to be the person I seek to become.

As I look at the world around me, it seems it is always in a position of chaos and mayhem. It can be so overwhelming sometimes. Among the controversies, wars, deaths, and poverty, it seems one can't ever get a break from some sort of strife.

But, on the brighter side, I've also seen how just the simplest acts of kindness can change a person's whole day. I've seen how a shared smile can lighten a heavy load off of a person's shoulders. I've seen how the power of a simple "hello" can eventually end up changing a life.

Here's something to consider: think of an artist, and more specifically, a painter. This painter spends hours upon hours marking up a canvas with hundreds of colors and intricate details. The result? A beautiful masterpiece of art. But by the time the painter is finished, what does he look like? He's certainly not free of paint stains and piles of messy brushes. He's covered in the very material that shaped and formed that beautiful art.

The point? You can't make a masterpiece without getting a little messy first.

I think our lives are a lot like this. Our experiences, both negative and positive, shape the way we live for the rest of our lives.

I've always centered around the truth that life is bittersweet. Some days we will experience more sweet than bitter, and other days we will be slapped with more bitter than sweet. But I've also come to realize that there's always a little of both in each day, whether that be something like 50/50 or looking more like 80/20. Even if it seems like the darkest clouds are looming over us, and we think we will never find the sunshine or the happiness, we can still have joy.

Happiness is based on circumstances, but joy is rooted much, much deeper.

The joy that knows,

"I am here for a purpose."

The joy that recognizes,

"I am more than the struggles I face."

And the joy that remembers,

"I am so worth loving."

So, when the clouds block the sunshine, no matter the struggle, I hope we will be able to find strength in that joy.

After all, all of this is not a catastrophe, it's simply an inconvenience.