When the going gets tough, find a fluffy kitten

Mark Hammontree

On this campus, in this state and in this world, there is no shortage of depressing realities. Hunger, abuse, genocide, disease, discrimination, rape – the list of issues we need to address and combat seems to go on and on. It’s so very easy to get caught up in just trying to do something about it that we get overwhelmed and disheartened in our anger and sadness.

When there’s so much that’s wrong in our communities, it can be hard to stay positive and stay engaged in trying to make things better. And that’s why it is so important in life to acknowledge the bad and the good. Sometimes it’s easier and oftentimes it’s necessary to focus on what is hurting, on what is broken, but we do ourselves harm when we miss the opportunities to take comfort in what is right.

Playing with a small kitten, for example, is the kind of joyful and triumphant experience that we all sometimes need after a long week and a longer news cycle. One of my friends recently became the proud new mother of a furry bundle of joy, and when I had the chance to meet the four-legged fluff ball, I was reminded that life, while filled with suffering and injustice, is also filled with kittens. And when you’re holding an impossibly tiny baby animal that’s just so amazingly soft and small and cute and just really, incredibly little, you feel a bit better about life and a little more energized.

It’s that energy and that optimism I want to stress, because by no means do I want to suggest ignoring important issues like harassment and assault and racism that are so pressing on our campus. But we can fight and speak out against these things with more force when we are taking care of our minds and our hearts.

So, enjoy life. Regardless of how much might be wrong, there is always something good. Find it and drink it in – drink it to the dregs. Go to a pumpkin patch with your friends and find the perfect pumpkin. Belt along with Katy Perry in the safe solitude of your car. Reread an old favorite or discover a new one. Eat a whole pizza. Go ahead and ask that guy on the Quad if you can pet the dog he’s walking. And if you’ve got a dog, please let me pet it.

Just make sure you’re not letting yourself get wholly bogged down in fighting things so much bigger than you to the point that you can’t remember the last time you laughed so much it hurt. Life is a mixture of light and dark, and it’s so very necessary for us to try and combat that darkness. But if we stay there too long, we may lose sight of the way back.

Successfully navigating life demands attention be paid to both sides. So do whatever you have to re-energize whenever you get too down about this world.

Take a second away from reading editorials and news articles to watch a video of a sloth eating carrots. Don’t forget to smile as you pass another student at the Ferguson Center. Laugh when someone tells a joke, and by all means laugh at your own. Lose your voice at a football game. Spend hours watching videos of bears doing wonderfully cute things. Sing, laugh, love. Dance, run, leap.

And whatever you do, when you walk out of a building, always look up.

Mark Hammontree is a junior majoring in secondary education – language arts. His column 
runs weekly.