Blog: If you’re happy and you know it, relax your face

By Taylor Griffin
Lariat Blogger

NEW YORK – As of this week, it has come to my attention that I have a certified “pouty resting face.”

While friends have playfully told me that in the past, this past week alone confirmed that the rest of the world agrees. In fact, three passing strangers — a bouncer, a subway operator and a newsstand worker — implored me to smile as I hurried past them.

Coincidence? Or is my resting face that much of a bother to people that they would inconvenience themselves to say so?

To the great city of New York, I beg you to ignore the frown: chances are I’m far from downtrodden and more deeply in thought. Especially as I walk around the city, I tend to ponder frightfully recondite topics that would be too heavy for the dinner table. With a noggin full of that rubbish, who wouldn’t have a knit brow?

But after being thrice called out for my irked appearance, it’s caused me to be slightly self-conscious about whether or not I seem approachable, and I’ve since made a mindful effort to relax my face when I’m around people. It’s a struggle; prayers needed.

Despite what my façade reads, I’m a very happy person who laughs loudly, jokes candidly and loves greatly. Sure, I’m also cynical and critical to boot, but I think it nicely balances out how little shame I actually have. Plus, I’ve got an endless arsenal of movie quotes to dish out; it comes in handy at parties.

The biggest concern I had with this week’s revelation comes from something I fear: I hate offending people. I’m so innately hypersensitive to possibly hurting someone’s feelings with my humor or a random comment that comes out wrong that I’ve wondered if I have accidentally ticked off a person with my facial expression. That’s what makes my stomach sink.

In our first week of classes, we watched a documentary exploring the psychology behind human happiness and contentment, aptly named “Happy.” According to the film and following class discussion, true happiness cannot be fully realized without absolute grief to contrast.

Trust me: I’ve seen plenty of dark days to know what unimaginable happiness looks like. I’m most thankful for all of the terrible events in my life because they make my content moments that much more beautiful. It’s not just about learning to cope; it’s about learning to be stronger on the other side.

It goes without saying that New York has also seen some dark days, and it’s a great testament to the leadership and overall spirit of the city that it could rebuild itself and flourish in such a mighty way. Perhaps this sense of strength has also trickled down to the individual New Yorkers, three of which reminded me to look on the bright side this past week.

In short, I’ve concluded that I didn’t offend these people — thank God — but I’m thankful for the friendly suggestion to keep a positive outlook at all times. If this same optimism can pull an entire city out of tragedy, it can certainly help me, too.