Appreciating the Valleys

They say that life is filled with ups and downs. Most of us live for the peaks: the gleaming moments that live on in our memories for a lifetime — moments that create the bittersweet, yet satisfying taste of nostalgia when taking a stroll down memory lane. However, many tend to forget that without the valleys, we can never truly appreciate the peaks. In nature there are two sides to everything: black and white, heaven and hell, peaks and valleys. One simply cannot exist without the other. If there were no valleys, then peaks wouldn’t be peaks. They would merely become forgettable bumps, or hills in a world without luster.

During peak periods, we truly live in the present. Our happiness is genuine and radiant, allowing us to open our arms and embrace everything that life has to offer. These are the rare moments where we don’t reminisce in the past, or worry about the uncertainties the future holds. Life becomes simple. Unfortunately, this blissful form of happiness is never meant to last. One of human nature’s greatest vices is that as time moves on, our happiness and satisfaction revert back to the mean. This means that our peaks are inevitably short lived, and life, along with all of its questions and hurdles, resumes. But is this really a bad thing? To me, this apparent flaw in our design is also our biggest strength — it’s what makes us human. This eternal urge to want more, to do more, is the force that continuously pushes us to be better.

There are many people in this world who are comfortable, and lead simple, generally happy lives. Shit, they’re probably happier than most of us. However, it’s important to remember that comfort provides a floor, but also a ceiling. If this truly is our only lifetime, why wouldn’t you want to be your best self, and contribute back to others with your full potential. Discomfort and living through the lows is how we unlock that potential, for only when we unlock ourselves can we show our purest form to others. For most of my life, I’ve always mulled over who I respect more: the peaceful monk who is in tune with himself and his desires, or the dreamer, who often crashes and burns, but never settles short of his goals. For most of my life, I would’ve said the monk, but on this day, my twenty-two year old self, I would have to say that I respect the dreamer more. Comfort and acceptance mask themselves in a veil of maturity, but stem from a place of fear. A fear of lows. A fear of never reaching the highs. A fear of the unknown. The only true way to be happier is to raise our base level of happiness. The key to doing that is embracing the valleys, and learning from them — not running from them.