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This Year Has Been Really Hard

This year has been really hard and I don’t know that I’ve always been the best version of myself. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve really recognized who I am, perpetually stuck in this “weird place” and not knowing quite how to get out.

I was talking to a friend recently about what came next and I said, “I haven’t been a good version of myself in a really long time and to not prioritize doing whatever it would take to fix that feels wrong.”

But how do you fix that? How do you know where to begin when so much feels broken?


It’s a 3 minute 15 second song that is probably even shorter when played on the radio, which is where I first heard it, driving to my grandmother’s last month and casually skimming the stations.

It starts with a quiet acoustic guitar before the singer comes in with:

“Hey homecoming queen

why do you lie

when somebody’s mean?

Where do you hide?

Do people assume

you’re always alright?

Been so good at smiling

most of your life.”


I could feel involuntary tears springing to the corners of my eyes. I love running The Smile Project, I absolutely do. This nonprofit has changed my life in more ways than I could ever articulate. But it’s also given me something of a reputation. I’m the “Happiness is” girl. And while there are worse things you could be known for, sometimes, that’s really, really hard.


I took my hand off the radio scanner and listened. The next lines:

“Look damn good in the dress

Zipping up the mess

Dancing with your best foot forward.

Does it get hard

To have to play the part?

Nobody’s feeling sorry for ya.

But what if I told you the world wouldn’t end

If you started showing what’s under your skin

what if you let ‘em all in on the lie?

That even the homecoming queen cries.”


I hate the idea of apologizing for crying. Apologizing for crying feels like apologizing for having emotions and I will never apologize for being human. And yet at times, I find myself burying the things I need to say and convey so that other people are comfortable and happy, so that I don’t disrupt their image of me, of my nonprofit, of everything I work towards.


The song, “homecoming queen?” is by a young country singer named Kelsea Ballerini, who is just a year older than me. In an interview about the song, Ballerini says, “For me, it’s just about, “Yes. I sweep a lot of stuff under the rug to make it look pretty. But that doesn’t mean it’s a clean house.””


When I was 17, I started The Smile Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading Happiness. When I was voted Homecoming Queen at my college three years later, my friends called me the Queen of Kindness.

But I haven’t always been kind. Haven’t always been patient. Haven’t always been loving. Haven’t always been happy.


“Yeah, what if I told you the sky wouldn't fall?

If you lost your composure, said to hell with it all

Not everything pretty sparkles and shines

And even the homecoming queen cries”


So maybe this is me. Publishing a blog about how hard this year has been on me. This is me without the Happiness is and without the Smiley Face flag. This is me as a 25-year-old young woman who has been struggling a lot this year and wants to own it.

Even the homecoming queen, the “Happiness is” girl, the person who had no business directing the marching band at the college Homecoming football game but did anyway, cries. And that’s okay.

Love always,


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