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2016

I started 2016 by shouting “Happy New Year” in a small room with my friends from high school. I’ve always liked how the first word I say of every year is “happy,” even if I don’t feel happy at all.

The first six months of 2016 I spent (as my readers know) working for the Boston Globe as an intern. While it was stressful adjusting to a 40-hour work week all while still going to college, I enjoyed my job generally.

In March, I turned 20 and had a crisis. I was spending all my time in work or school. I had stayed on campus alone over spring break. I had been going to therapy for anxiety and depression, but it didn’t seem to be helping and I was thinking about quitting. My dog had died, and my family was ripping at the seams. My article was on the front page of my section but it had been edited so thoroughly it barely felt like my own work…and my boyfriend, the only one I felt like seeing in my lonely, plastic life, was studying abroad in Mexico. I couldn’t remember the last day I hadn’t cried. My dad told me he wanted to see me pull out of the darkness. I did too.

In April, things picked up externally. On April 4th an article of mine was on the first page of Metro, gaining me my first fan main (and, almost more exciting, my first hate mail). I was writing a novel daily, piece by piece on my blog, which was growing in popularity. It felt good to be writing again. On April 16th, a date I had been looking forward to for months, my boyfriend came home for what I thought would be a short lived reunion. I met him at the airport with coffee, had dinner, and he was gone again. I moved back home to an angry house. I felt like April was toying with me, holding a carrot just out of my reach.

June. On June 9 we found out that one of our fellow interns and one of my best friends at work had committed suicide. On June 24, After two months of driving into Boston, spending 3 hours daily in rush hour traffic, my internship was finally over. What should have been a bittersweet goodbye to the company I had enjoyed working for was nothing but relief. No more driving, no more long work days…and no more walking past his desk where his handwritten notes still hung to the corkboard.

July and August were when I tried to grow. I learned how to cook more. I spend time editing my novel. I prepared myself for study abroad. I worried myself over making friends. I saved money, writing about farmers markets for the local papers. I dreaded leaving my boyfriend again. I was scared.

In September, October, and November, I went to the Netherlands, Berlin, London, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Spain, France, and Switzerland. I made friends I know I will have for life, friends I am closer with than I ever imagined possible. I have done things I never dreamed I would get to do. I grew. I found inner peace. I found independence. I found courage (which I was sorely lacking). I cried exactly once–when my flight was cancelled back from Berlin–a great improvement over “every single day.” I was happy. I liked my life.

In December, I was glad to come home for awhile. I got a puppy, Lacey, who I already love. I discovered a healthier and deeper relationship with my boyfriend which has left us both with less stress and more joy. I patched things up a bit with my sister. I met up with some friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. I got a new internship with easier hours at a creative literary magazine. I secured housing for all of 2017. I was still happy, even though I wasn’t in some amazing place anymore.

On January 1, 2017, my first word was, once again, “Happy.” Only this time, I meant it.

I don’t know what will happen in 2017. I don’t have a plan anymore, and that’s good for me. I want to write more. I want to read more. I want to discover more about myself and the world. I want to be a better friend. I want to lead a healthy life. I want to stop thinking about myself so much. But most of all, I want to continue the positive path I am on. I no longer feel anxious or depressed most of the time, and for 2017 I want to keep that trend going no matter what happens.

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No, you’re not allowed to be sad!

Am I allowed to complain about how stressful travel planning is? I’m so lucky. I’m so infinitely lucky, so is it even valid for me to be stressed out? To be a bit sad?

I’ve heard things over and over in my life, both to me and to others about how if you have it good, there can’t be anything bad to complain about. However, I’m a firm believer that just because one has a house, a family, a comfortable life, doesn’t mean they can’t be sad. Or stressed. Or depressed.

In fact, people constantly telling them how lucky they are may amplify that sadness.

I bring this up because I think I may be in the stage of travel where the culture shock gets to me. I changed all my clocks to military time and all my calendars to date/month/year, and this little change has had me railing. Not to mention I started all of my classes today, and had to book a flight with crashing internet, and had to deal with the library for the first time and smacking my head off the underside of my bunkbed and ahhh!

But I’m in a freaking castle in the Netherlands. I’m so lucky. I should appreciate it–I DO appreciate it! I appreciate it so much. I know I’m so lucky. I know I shouldn’t complain about these little things, or that I miss my family and friends.

That’s another thing–am I allowed to miss my family and friends? After all, I left them. It was my choice, nothing made me go. In fact, I fought hard to make this happen, and now I have the gall to complain about crashing internet and a bit of stress?

The irony, of course, is that this all just keeps raising my blood pressure. I’m sure I’m just overthinking. Travel is stressful, for everyone. A new place, a new country, is hard too. Being away from literally everyone you’ve ever met is challenging. Not to mention, starting a new semester of college. I suppose I’m allowed to be a little stressed.

But then again, it’s a castle. How could I possibly complain?

The good things 

My family always honored hard work and resilience. They’re all about gritting your teeth and baring the hard stuff.

I can do that relatively well (to a point). I can put up with anything, keeping my anger and exasperation in check. As I have worked on controlling my anxiety, even things like being late, which used to make me go crazy, are manageable now.

I think the trouble is that I can handle bad things, but not good things. Maybe that’s why I still feel empty when my life is so full. I’m lucky, and privelidged, and I should be happier about that. 

Maybe it’s the good old Catholic guilt of yesteryear nagging me. The kind that told me to always keep my luck in the front of my mind, to always feel bad that someone out there had it worse than me. That’s why we licked our plates clean at dinner, right? Because of those starving kids out there who would love to have those beets?

I do that well, too. I’m great at downplaying my successes, at smiling quietly, at keeping things off Facebook. 

Maybe I need to spend some time bein happy instead of instantly repressing it. I should take the simply joys and relish them instead of hiding them. 

Or, should I? I always worry about making people feel jealous, or making them think I’m bragging. Nothing is worse, in my family, than a braggart.

I don’t know. When is it okay to feel happy? When is it okay to show happiness? When can guilt stop infiltrating joy?

I guess, always, if I let it. 

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First anniversary

So, turns out today marks my first year since I registered with WordPress. I got an achievement for it and everything.

This blog has changed a lot over the year. At first it was deep and depressing and then it was day to day and then it was A to Z and then it was a bunch of things and now it’s…whatever this is. I guess just whatever I’m feeling, approximately once a day.

Jeez, not the best blog theme, is it?

I’m sure I will start up Conversation Starters and Short Fic Friday and other stuff soon. I’m just in a weird place and not ready for that sort of thing yet. It’s been a time. Not necessarily a bad time or a good time, just a time. And that time has required a lot of energy.

Anyway, before the notification that I’ve spent a year here, I was going to write a post about happiness. I’m writing a novella around the theme of happiness. What makes us happy, how do you find happiness and keep it, etc. I am working on it because it’s a problem I’m working on in my personal life as well.

I find it frustrating that my happiness is dependent on my surroundings. I wish I had an inner peace that could just let the outer stuff go. I want to go to sleep generally happy no matter the circumstance. Maybe that’s a lot to ask, but I find myself overly emotional (both positive and negative emotions) over events, people, etc. in my life. Minor things can make or break a day for me. I wish I wasn’t like that.

How can I make my happiness independent from the situation that I’m in? Is that even possible? I guess I don’t mean happiness, just peacefulness. I want to be peaceful.

Of course, I’m about the worst candidate for “peaceful” ever. I bounce my knees and move my hands around constantly. I can’t stand silence, because I get tinnitus, and I don’t like darkness, because I get visual snow, which I just recently learned isn’t something everyone has. Meditation makes me jittery. I’m even stressed out in my sleep–I grind my teeth so hard I’ve broken four night guards.

I guess it’s a good goal to strive for, anyway.

This blog has always been tied someway or another to introversion, and this is no exception. Introverts spend a lot of time doing introspection, and maybe this is what this new leg of my journey is about. Introspection, concerning happiness and peacefulness and a general sense of love. Not a bad new year resolution.

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An original song!

Hi friends!

I had absolutely nothing to do today, and sitting around bored for hours was making me feel like a blob. So I decided to record one of my original songs and put it on YouTube.

It’s about watching someone perform onstage and slowly falling in love with them. It’s rather introverty and I think it fits here. Let me know what you think, if you like it maybe I’ll do some more:)

Best,

Christina

 

If only

I’m writing a novel wherein all the characters quantify their future happiness by what they will achieve. They think that they will be happy if they could only get that job, only find they right person, only do this, only do that…

That doesn’t work. I know that, I’m writing this book about it. And yet I don’t apply it to my own life.

Part of the reason I took a break from blogging is that I became slightly obsessed with views and likes and follows. Charts and stats don’t make you happy. I forgot that blogging was supposed to be my way to keep writing every day, even if I didn’t particularly feel like it.

I do it in other aspects, too. I’ll be happy in the future if I could only get a book published; that’s one I have said a lot. But if I push myself to think beyond the moment of publication…I won’t be constantly happy. I will want it to get more recognition, I’ll want better reviews, I’ll want to publish another book.

There’s something innately human about never being satisfied. One could always be better, stronger, faster, smarter. That drive probably kept our species alive for so long. It’s also likely tied to individual humans’ demise.

Maybe this is just another “if only.” If only I could just accept things and be happy!

I go through stages in life where the most important question to me changes. For awhile it was “what is the meaning of life?” Now, it’s “how can I be happy?”

The strange thing is, I should be happy. I am, a lot of the time. I’m also not, a lot. Is this okay? It’s hard to tell what’s right. It’s hard to know if what’s right is right, or not. All I know is, I’ve done the “right” thing a lot, but bending the rules has gotten me a lot as well.

I guess this new phase in my blog, this “three weeks before Europe” phase, is a heavily existential one. These are the kind of posts I’ll look back on in a few years and roll my eyes so hard they hit my brain. So “emo,” aren’t they?

Ah. I’ll be okay. Maybe it’s not happiness that one should chase, but contentment. I am content, so I am okay.

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Candles

It’s often hard for me to stop thinking. I go in circles. I worry. About everything.

I have to make sure I have enough time to buy chips for the party, because if I don’t buy chips there won’t be any salty snacks, but what if there are too many people for just one bag of chips? What if I don’t have time to buy chips? I have to make sure I have enough time to buy chips, so there’s some salty snacks.

And so on, except it’s usually about more important things than chips. Like, my career. My future. My family.

I get the thoughts to stop the same way you get a song out of your head. If you have a song in your head, you listen to the song and it goes away. If I have a worry in my head, I go through the worrisome situation and it goes away. Saying “Stop!” to myself helps for a moment, but then the thoughts come back like a stubborn case of hiccups.

The less-effective way to make it stop is by telling myself “Who cares?”

There won’t be any salty snacks for the party. Who cares?

And et cetera.

I am glad that I have things that keep me occupied and don’t make me worry. Like blogging. And drawing. Creative writing. And lighting candles.

I love lighting candles. Nothing makes me feel calmer. I love watching the flame dance, I love the smell of the room when they’re lit. I love the color of the wax. I love candles. I can see why they’re used with meditating.

The candles make me feel like everything’s alright, even if there’s no salty snacks. Even if no one cares.