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.

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. 

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.

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.

Prioritizing vs. Balance

One of the most important things you learn in college, people will tell you, is how to prioritize.

For me, prioritizing wasn’t only a factor in choosing which essay to write first—it also applied to my personal values. You can probably list a few things you value highly, like honesty, or perseverance, or family. And you can probably rank them from most to least important, a form of prioritizing. The problem with this ranking form of prioritizing is that while it does keep the top values important, it tends to let the lower values fall to the wayside. It creates the illusion that the lower values are unnecessary…and they’re not. Let me explain–

When I was planning this semester, I ranked my internship as the first priority, my education second, and my friends and free time third. This was what I thought I was supposed to do, and after all it does make logical sense. College exists to get you a better job, right? So placing my job over my education made sense, and people always say “school first, friends later,” so that made sense as well. Do my job, do my schoolwork, and then all the free time goes to my friends.

Well, this system didn’t work as well as I thought it would. I ended up feeling guilty whenever I was with my friends, and worse, I always felt rushed and spent most of the time with them glancing at the clock no matter what I was doing. I would skip important classes to cover assignments, since work took priority, and I would skip events I wanted to go to to do homework, since school took priority, and soon I found myself cutting out friends more and more and using those precious hours to take naps, as sleep was at the bottom of the totem pole and nearly always got shafted for more important things. Doing that made me feel guilty for spending too much time asleep, and so on.

I was falling apart, but didn’t know why. I thought I was finding a “work/life balance” like all those fancy BBC articles told me I should, but I didn’t feel balanced, I felt exhausted.

Prioritizing works alright for writing papers and doing assignments, but when it comes to scheduling your life, a more fluid system works far better. I told myself to look at the clock less, to listen more to myself and others. To do my work, sure, but to do things to make me happy as well. “As well,” not “instead.”

I realized that happiness wasn’t on my list of priorities at all. I figured that this semester would be crunch time, saving money and getting experience for the future. With my boyfriend returning from Mexico and my upcoming trip to Europe, I had time in the future to be happy, but for now, happiness wasn’t important. However, thinking about how I would be happy in the future didn’t make me happy in the present, it only made me sadder as I calculated the seemingly endless days and weeks and months until his return and my departure.

A while ago I was discussing with my roommate the “nomadic” lifestyle of traveling the country in an RV working minimum wage jobs. She said if it made people happy, then they should do it. I said it would be naive to assume that life was all smiles and roses, and that having the security of a job would allow for a more comfortable life. We were both right. The RV life would be difficult, but if it made people happy, then they should do it. I am just now seeing that both of those things being true at the same time is both possible and necessary.

Balance isn’t about prioritizing. Balance is about…balance. Happiness and success, together, both in healthy amounts. You shouldn’t have to choose between one or the other. And neither should I.