On Getting Out of a Bad Mood


New Year’s Day, 2011: I am tired, obviously hungover, stumbling home in last night’s clothes, feeling like the unhappiest person in the entire world.

It was my last New Year’s as a single girl, but I didn’t know that yet. I was fixated on my bad night–being hit on by guy after guy, only for them to reveal they had a girlfriend, but could “promise me a good time” if I’d just give them a chance–and seeing it as a harbinger of the rest of my life. And instead of placing the blame where it should have been placed–on the guys–I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me. 

As I stumbled down into the L train stop, my eyes on my sore feet in my too-high heels, I passed a homeless person with a cup in front of him sitting on the ground. Not an uncommon sight; it is NYC, after all. If I have a dollar or some change somewhere easily accessible to me, I tend to give. If I don’t, I keep walking.

I glanced into my bag, saw all I had was a twenty-dollar bill, and kept walking.

But then I stopped.

The guy–boy, really, he couldn’t have been older than twenty–looked the way I felt. He was slumped over his cup–which only held coins–not sleeping, not looking up at people begging, just staring at the ground. Like there was nothing left in the world worth seeing. His clothes and hair were dirty, he had tattoos across his face–far be it from me to judge what anyone else puts on their body, but he was so young I worried he hadn’t really thought the whole face-tattoo thing through.

What happened to him to bring him here?

I thought about it for probably about thirty seconds. Then I pulled out my twenty and dropped it into his cup.

He looked at it. Then looked up at me. In disbelief.

“Thank you,” he said. His eyes filled with tears, then overflowed, dripping down over his face tattoo. “Thank you,” he said again. “Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome,” I said.

The train arrived. I got on it and never saw him again. I don’t know if my twenty dollars did him any good.

But something weird happened. I walked home feeling like the biggest person in the world. My bad mood was completely, entirely gone.

So this is my secret for when you’re feeling down: help someone. A person on the street, a person on the internet, a homeless dog. Just someone. No matter how crappy you feel, I guarantee there’s someone out there who’s feeling worse. And if you’re sitting here reading blogs on your computer or phone, chances are you’re in a position to help them.

Lately, I’ve been feeling down (boring day job, but where else should I work? I don’t belong in NYC, but where else should I go? + I’m still not a published writer. Rinse and repeat…) So I decided to do something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: sponsor a child. I decided to go with Children International–it’s not religiously affiliated and it has a great reputation. I just signed up, so don’t have a ton of insight as to how it’s going to go, but even if I make just a tiny difference in the life of someone who really needs it, I will be satisfied.

So if you’re having a crappy day/week/month/year, give my method a try. I think it will help you. And more importantly, it will help someone else.

Image found here.

10 thoughts on “On Getting Out of a Bad Mood

  1. I absolutely love this. I’ve been volunteering regularly for about 5 years now, and I also work for a volunteer organization. It’s amazing how much helping people doesn’t just help them — it helps the person helping them, too! For those of us who have enough time and/or money that we can give some away, we should. It makes the world a better place. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I live in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina and volunteer for a nonprofit that helps other nonprofits, it’s essentially a volunteer center. I write for them and also help with their annual fundraiser. I also occasionally do mentoring / tutoring for kids, but I don’t have as much time for that these days as I wish I did. And I work for a state program that trains volunteers to advocate for abused children in court, doing communications and volunteer recruitment. You might know about it already, but idealist.org is a great place to find cause-related jobs. Some nonprofits do pay decently, so maybe you can find one that does in NYC. 🙂


      2. You’re quite welcome! 🙂 I’m also a huge proponent of volunteering where you want to work, if you have a nonprofit in mind. Nonprofits often hire their best volunteers, I see it all the time.


      3. For me it’s time issue more than anything else, which is why I usually end up donating money more often than time. But I’ll definitely be checking out that site! Hopefully there’s something that fits!

        Liked by 1 person

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