How to Find Joy in the Valleys—Not Just the Mountain Highs was written by Quindara Lazenbury and originally appeared on Black Girl In OM

When I hear the word “celebrate” there’s a few things that come to mind; my mother making pancakes before work when I was a child because I did well on an exam, my father secretly telling my aunts about a small accomplishment (at least small to me) because he’s proud, or my best friend sharing a post on Facebook about one of my projects because she’s the best ride or die in the world. Celebration to me means love. Love for myself and what I’ve done or love for someone else and how proud I am to witness their work.

According to the dictionary, celebrate is a verb. It’s an action. It’s movement. To celebrate means “to acknowledge (a significant or happy day or event) with a social gathering or enjoyable activity.” So what should I do to celebrate? Or rather, what could I do?

According to the dictionary, celebrate is a verb. It’s an action. It’s movement.

As I’m trudging through this process called “adulting” everything that I envisioned my life to be as a child is not exactly what I thought it would be. I moved back home with my father because he’s ill, I decided to relocate from my beloved Brooklyn to Florida. The fabulous apartment, career, boyfriend and fit body I hoped to have by 25 I have not yet experienced. And for some time these circumstances truly killed my spirit.


The most beautiful and rewarding piece of life, rather living life, is to transition through these so called “valleys” and move on to the “peaks” filled with passion and purpose. After many so called disappointments faced, I realized there is beauty in the valley. Beauty in figuring out how to rise above and move forward without letting a circumstance hold you back.

When I was about nine or ten years old, there was a gospel song that helped me to find solace and cope while my parents were going through a divorce. The song is called, “We Fall Down” by Donnie McClurkin. Cheesy, I know—but the combination of the predictable lyrics threaded with Donnie’s powerful and heart wrenching screams of getting back up again touched my soul eternally. It was in the final stanza that I realized that the tough times I faced would not last and I could always get back up again.

Cliché as it sounds, it’s through music that I find solace in even the darkest and brightest experiences of my life. It’s the Anita Baker “Sweet Love” moments when I am smitten over dating a new guy or the Red Hot Chili Pepper chords when I need a dose of lyrical artistry. Maybe a throwback of Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real” for when I channel a disco dancing Queen or a splash of James Brown when I truly feel good.


It is in music and love and family and joy and peace and anger and laughter and jealousy and hustle and diligence and silence and EVERYTHING that I find celebration.

I celebrate with my breath, my gratitude, my appreciation, my concern, my resentment, my impatience, my criticism. I celebrate with life. Living. Living life. Because in those emotions, moments, experiences, actions, and people, is when I believe that life is celebrated the most.

As a millennial, it’s easy to live in this “ideal” world and allow social media to flood timelines with life’s highlights. But see that’s where the fallacy lies. There is no ideal. I reject the ideal. Like Supertramp’s “The Logical Song:”

But at night, when all the world's asleep

The questions run so deep

For such a simple man

Won't you please tell me what we've learned

I know it sounds absurd

Please tell me who I am.

We cannot plan each and every experience, moment, or life occurrence—but we can celebrate. Celebrate what we do have and what we can do at this moment.

We cannot plan each and every experience, moment, or life occurrence—but we can celebrate.

Why is it important to celebrate yourself? Because each day is a celebration and that in itself is a blessing. A moment that we should cherish. The epitome of self-care.

To celebrate the smallest things like mommy’s pancakes in the morning or even the largest things like your friend’s engagement or earning a Ph.D., going back to school to become an eye doctor.

I firmly believe whether you celebrate by finding a fire song to listen to while working out or giving that nudge of encouragement to your mother when she really needed a dose of wisdom, even if it was delivered by the one she delivered—all of these gestures are acts of celebration which are truly the highest form of self-care.

Read next: Why I Stopped Seeking Approval in the Name of Self-Care