Each summer, I return to Pennsylvania to spend one week working at a leadership camp called RYLA. That’s where I first met Matt Gibson. One thing that immediately stuck out to me about Matt was his talent and his humor. He’s the kind of person who leaves every room—and every person—better than he found them.
Matt is an incredible musician (read more on that at the end of this article) and one of our founding ambassadors here at The Smile Project—he’s been recording joy since June 21, 2018. That’s over 1,000 days! We are so proud of him and so excited to introduce him to you in this post.
Liz: Let's start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give us a favorite "Happiness is.”
Matt: To date, my favorite "Happiness is" comes from Day 612: "Happiness is a choice. This one might seem kinda random, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. Just because I make these posts every day doesn’t mean it’s sunshine 100% of the time...Recently, I’ve had quite a few days where I was just irritated for one reason or another, and I felt like acknowledging something good would just magically make me happy. It doesn’t work like that. Happiness is so much more than something I post about every day. It’s the actions behind the words that matter. It’s the authentic appreciation for the fine details of life that makes happiness so powerful."
Liz: Tell us a little about yourself.
Matt: I'm 19-years-old and currently a junior at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, (Go Rock!) studying English and Secondary Education. I want to teach high school; I believe learning is naturally really fun, but often gets overshadowed by assessment. I hope to change the narrative of learning in a school setting. Aside from that, I play a few different instruments and I've been enjoying making music since I was about 13. Most importantly, I want to use my development in these areas to change the world.
Liz: How did you get involved with The Smile Project and what made you first start writing daily “Happiness is?”
Matt: I met Liz (Founder of The Smile Project) at RYLA in 2018. I remember her giving a presentation about The Smile Project and thinking "wow it's so cool that she's actively working to change the world;" I thought of her as some sort of superhero. The night we left, a bunch of kids were posting Snapchat stories with their very own "Day 1: Happiness is.." posts. I started to post my own, but I stopped myself because it felt like I would just be copying everyone. I didn't want to steal Liz's superpower.
Less than a week later, my barber cut my hair a lot shorter than I wanted it (devastating, I know). Being the dramatic 17-year-old I was, I took to Snapchat and started ranting about it. My cousin responded to my story and said something to the effect of "at least it will grow back eventually." As soon as I read that, a wave of calmness came over me and I was inexplicably composed. My instant reaction was to update my Snapchat story, the only way that seemed to make sense… "Day 1: Happiness is knowing that my hair will grow back." Like clockwork, recording "Happiness is.." became easier and easier every day.
Liz: How has recording daily joy impacted your life?
Matt: For whatever reason, I remember recording the amount of days that I thought were "good days" vs "bad days" for my first year of daily joy. Out of the first 365 days, I recorded 361 good days and only 4 bad days overall. That's about 99% overall happiness for an entire year. For someone who thought a bad haircut was the end of the world, that's a dramatic change. A lot of people who saw my posts called it a "challenge," but it really became less challenging as time went on. I was by no means a negative person before I started recording joy, but reprogramming myself to intentionally seek out joy every day has definitely made me more optimistic even in the worst of situations.
Liz: Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that keeps you grounded or inspired?
Matt: Yes, so one of my professors my first semester at Slippery Rock University taught a seminar called "#changetheworld" and she told us a story about how she wanted to change the world in all these different ways, but she always felt burnt out. A mentor of hers told her that everyone has their own boat to navigate, and it's a lot easier to control a rowboat than a ship. Her mentor added that a fleet of rowboats can cover a lot more ground than one ship could. So, as someone who wants to change the world, this metaphor has encouraged me to not overextend myself and to support others around me who are making a positive difference in ways that I cannot.
Liz: What didn't we ask you that you'd like to share with us?
Matt: First, I just want to say thank you for "adopting" me into The Smile Project family, I am happy to be rowing a boat in this fleet! Lastly, I am definitely going to plug my music here; it's probably the most public way I'm currently working to change the world. So, you all can listen to me on Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, or wherever else you listen to music. Just search "Matt Gibson" and it'll show up! Thanks again!