Don’t Wait to be Happy

Not too long ago, I found myself a complete and utter failure down in the depths of despair. Being abroad had done a number on my body and my soul. And, as I began looking for internships to apply to, I realized that my once flawless transcript had become something that I was less than proud to call mine. I found myself on a college campus with no idea who I was and beyond that, I was more or less utterly alone. To summarize, I was a self-pitying, depressed pile of poop.

Now because I was still on a positivity kick blah blahblah. Here’s what I told myself. In fact, this is what I wrote on tumblr:

I keep thinking that because i’m a failure today, i’m going to continue being a failure for the rest of my life. but then i remember how much has changed over the past year. How much i’ve changed. And i have a little sliver of hope, that maybe if i start changing things little by little in the right direction, in a year or two from now, i’ll be a completely different person. but this time it’ll be for the better. Who i am now isn’t who i’m going to be forever.

So basically, its okay to feel negatively about myself because one day, I’m not going to be this person anymore. And that’s the problem. Why wait for the future? I feel like we do so much of that. I will be happy when I get into college. I will be happy when I graduate and get a job. I will be happy when I lose 10 pounds. I will be happy when I get married and have children. I will be happy when I retire and have all the time in the world.

Looking back, I have rarely ever been satisfied or happy with where I was. Sometimes for a brief moment or two. Like the day I returned from Japan, proud of what I had accomplished and delighted to finally have a bed and my own room and functional legs. But this satisfaction never lasts. I am always left wanting more.

But I have discovered that there can be positivity in every moment, but sometimes it is harder to find than others. Take right now for instance. I wouldn’t say my life is particularly in order. And if asked, I could list infinite things that I are horrible right now. I feel more alone now than I’ve ever been before, but its also hard to say for certain. It’s easy to be negative, to pinpoint things that you wish could improve even if you believe that they will. But that doesn’t really do any good. Instead, I choose to breathe, take my stress in stride, be proud who I am. It doesn’t mean I can’t look to the future. It just means that I can also look to the now and be happy with where I am on my journey.

I’m writing this because I often see posts where people talk about how their lives are going fantastically now: they are married, expecting their first child, and have their dream job, when only five years ago, they were severely depressed and self-harming. And these posts are wonderful no doubt, they give people hope, hope to keep living because of the prospect of such a future. But it doesn’t address the depression that people are in now. The depression that sucks someone in because their life actually is in shambles, because they feel alone and abandoned and like a complete failure. And I wish someone had told me that none of these things make you a failure. That everybody experiences these feelings no matter how complete they look on the outside. And that you don’t have to wait for things on the outside to get better in order to be happy on the inside. Because these things do not make a person a failure, it makes them human, a little too human.

I know this isn’t really a complete thought because I’m still learning myself how to be happy with who I am right now. But its just a thought. Yes, things will get better. But that doesn’t mean that things right now are bad. You are not a failure. You are a success for living and for being brave enough to keep going.

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Getting to the Heart of the Matter

So I have these days when I have a tiny little problem, a problem so miniscule that it wouldn’t bother anyone but me. But for some reason, I can’t get it out of my head, no matter what I’m doing. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, nothing can distract me from obsessing over it, even though I know that it literally means nothing. And the thing is, I know that I have bigger more important problems that I could be dealing with and am probably avoiding, but instead I am letting this little thing take over my life.

Now I’ve stopped seeing my therapist because a few weeks ago we decided together that I was doing fine enough to deal with things on my own (and I really do believe that). Anyway, she would probably say something along the lines of, “Is this what’s really bothering you? Or is there something else?”

So here’s my “giant” problem of the day, or maybe of the weekend: Campus security confiscated my electric tea kettle and now I have to meet with them to discuss my fire safety violation and pay a small fine. They actually sent me an email a few days ago so I knew about it, but I arrived back on campus today and discovered that they actually took my electric tea kettle, which I paid a solid $25 for. I was and am really upset because I think its a stupid fire safety violation and also because I feel like colleges can’t just confiscate your property (especially when its not illegal). Writing this out, I know I sound a little bit ridiculous, but that’s sort of why I’m writing it out. So I can reason with myself. Also I’m finding it really difficult to concentrate on the work that I actually have to do.

So I’m writing this post to help myself through the days or the incidents when I’m being obsessive and counterproductive.

1. What are you upset about?

This is a situation I could have easily avoided and I feel idiotic for just not having hid my kettle before I left for spring break.

2. Do you have a good reason to be upset about it?

Not really. It was a tiny mistake, but something that’s really easy to forget and there’s nothing I can do about it now.

3. Is there anything you can do at this moment to fix the situation?

No, I already scheduled an appointment with security so there’s nothing I can do until tomorrow.

4. What should your priorities be right now?

The homework that I neglected over spring break, finding housing, practicing piano, and taking care of my body.

5. Is there anything else you are worried about?

Being back on campus for another six weeks, being forced to socially interact, leaving the safety and comfort of home, and being responsible for myself.

6. Is there anything else you are upset about?

A few things…

Lately, I’ve been getting let down by a lot of people that I used to trust and respect. I feel personally betrayed, not by them, but by myself for having so much trust and belief in the good of people. I want to keep up this positivity, but I’m afraid that I’m turning into a cynic.

Because I’ve been trying to take such good care of my body, I’ve had to restrict myself. A lot. I know its a good thing, but I wish I could just have a stupid college kid night once in a while and not be confined to a different set of rules than everyone else.

I’ve been feeling really negatively about my body ever since Japan. I know I’m getting back on the right track now, but at the same time, I wish I had known from the beginning how to take care of myself. I’ve been telling myself lately that I’m going to die early because I’ve had so many health problems and pop way too many pills for a 20-year-old. I said it to my mom yesterday and she understandably got really sad and sort of angry.

Generally, I feel like I’m starting over spring of my junior year because I wasn’t smart enough to see these things in advance.

7. Why do you think you are really upset?

I think I’m upset because this seems like a mistake I could have easily avoided just by thinking ahead, as I could have done with a lot of these other things. This just seems to be the simplest most avoidable scenario. Now that I have things in perspective, I’m remembering that its impossible to predict the future and that these mistakes are what create a better future. Sometimes they are inconvenient for awhile, but things inevitably end up better.

What are you happy about in your life right now?

I am finally on the right track and I am fairly certain of it. I have exciting plans for the next year and beyond that. I’m happy with the classes that I am taking and I have been doing focused and doing well. Spring is coming and now I can go on walks again without death-defying winds. If campus security doesn’t give me my tea-kettle back, I’ll just get another one (because I just bought a bunch of new-flavored teas). Although I’m worried about falling back into old habits these next six weeks, they are also an opportunity to do better than ever before. Despite the little voice in my head that’s trying to tell me that everyone’s faking it, I know that I have wonderful wonderful friends who do care about me.

Wow, I feel so  much better. Gonna go conquer my work now.

Stop

I had a rough time in Japan, but there is one thing that I do miss. Awareness.

We live in a culture of rush. It’s glorified, especially here in New England. Trying to make plans with someone inevitably becomes an argument about whose schedule is busier because for some reason, being busy equates to being accomplished..

Kyoto was not a particularly happy place for me. We had curfews and restrictions, lots of restrictions, especially at the monastery. A lot of that had to do with trying to diminish our thinking, decreasing our choices, forcing us to do rather than spending every moment anticipating the future. It was hard, but it worked.

But my favorite part of Kyoto? Every night at 8:00, I set out on my nightly walk. I finished all my work in anticipation of my nightly walk. Then I would set out, headphones in. 20 minutes to the river. Just me and myself. Once I got there, a thirty minute walking meditation. And finally, I would pick my favorite rock, sit, and just watch the Kamo River in all its glory. The lights, the city, the water. Then I would stroll home just in time for 10:00 curfew.

I miss it. And its not like I couldn’t do it here. But, I keep telling myself that there isn’t any time to stop. That I have to keep going even though I know its not really true.

Taking time for yourself isn’t a waste of time. In fact, its probably the most productive use of your time. Those are the moments when you are literally living. You don’t even have to be straight up meditating. Just being aware of where you are, not just physically, but in life. Being aware of the people around you, people with just as many feelings and emotions and experiences as you. There’s this unspoken belief that we don’t want to waste our life and in order to accomplish that, we have to do as much as possible in as little time as possible. We have to avoid failure. I am just as guilty in going along with these sentiments, but lately, I’m trying just a little bit harder not to. I personally believe that we are just passing through. Its okay to take life little less seriously.

Look up.

The river from Gojo Dori

The river from Gojo Dori


The river at night

The river at night