I smile a lot. I smile so much, that people have actually asked me WHY I AM ALWAYS SMILING. A weird thing, I think, to question why someone chooses to be happy.

It started when I was really young, and I realized that when I smiled at someone, they immediately smiled back. No matter what. And I felt something inside me when I saw them smile. It was a feeling that I had created that smile, BY MAGIC. And so I continued to smile. At the doorman, at my teachers, at the mail-woman, at my aunts and uncles. I smiled at the ice cream truck man. I smiled at the people at the register, and I smiled at neighbors walking their dogs. It wasn’t something out of the ordinary, I guess, especially when you are a 7-year-old girl. As I got older, the habit stuck. Then, middle school and high school came around, and those years are so critical in a young human’s life.

1.expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgments.
2.of decisive importance with respect to the outcome; crucial.

I never consciously realized how much I did smile until “friends” would make comments. Oh you’re such a goody tw0-shoes. Stop sucking up. You’re too nice. You say thank you a lot, and smile so much, it’s weird. I never thought anything of it, because it wasn’t something to be thought about. Kindness comes from within, and I fully believed in the golden rule: do unto others, as you want done to you.

These overly critical comments created a huge self-esteem issue during my critical years of adolescence. I was known as the “nice girl,” but in reality, I was a doormat. I didn’t get it. I wanted to help others, but it became more about others taking me for granted. If I couldn’t handle something, and wanted to say no, I ended up feeling so guilty, that I became more and more of a recluse because it was easier than the pressure of whether to say yes or no. I never lost the idea of that magic I felt from making others smile, but somewhere inside I thought maybe the magic was too powerful, and not ready for the world yet. (My literary adventure-filled mind, I tell you.)

I looked at college as an escape from this life, and went in headstrong, telling myself that I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes again. Still wanting that magic in my life, when my high school counselor had asked me what I wanted to study in college, my answer was that I want to make people smile. I want to help others not feel sad all the time. So she showed me the path of Psychology, counseling, and social work. I applied, got accepted, and moved forward.

Enter college: I loved my classes. I filled up on Psychology courses and Literature classes, and I loved every moment of them. One critical semester, I took a class specifically on depression and anxiety. As we were learning about the ins and outs of how depression can occur in someone’s life, I had a revelation. I had been depressed in high school. I never realized it because it was not something that was discussed in an Indian-American household. Our cultural background didn’t prioritize mental health issues back then, and unless something was physically wrong with you, you were perfectly alright. I realized that I was vulnerable to depression, and I had battled it alone, and come out of it stronger, without realizing the magnitude of it.

It came back again after college, when I was finally a part of the real world, and my job affected my personal mental health. This time, I turned to my art, knowing that before I could make others smile, I had to be selfish for the first time in my life, and make myself smile again. And from there blossomed a new career path in the world of illustration.

Using the magic of the smile, I channel that energy into my illustrations, hoping to spread the magic far and wide. And I continue to smile all the time, knowing that it can make someone’s day. A smile IS magical. Maybe not the magic that I thought when I was 7, but magic nonetheless. It can give someone hope. It can make someone feel appreciated. It has the power to brighten someone’s mood. Smile. Be Kind. Respect All. The world needs this magic more than anything.