In July, I took a vacation without my family for the first time in my life. I wanted to find something that I felt I had lost over the previous year: happiness.
I know you’ve heard it all before. 2020 comes and everyone gets sad. So I’ll skip through all the rough patches that hit in that year.
Despite the rough year I had between the ears, I was apparently pretty good for the Torch. They promoted me to this position when I applied for it. I was going to achieve the main goal I set for myself when I joined this paper. I should’ve been happy.
To my dismay, I wasn’t.
When I realized this, I knew I had to do something. I needed to be in the right spot mentally to take on the challenge of this position, and to handle the schedule that I had given myself for my senior year. So I entered the summer with one goal: to get happy.
There were a few things I planned on doing to find happiness again. Each relating to the previous year’s struggles.
First was fighting the feeling of being trapped. Obviously in 2020 you understand why one would feel trapped, but beyond that, there was the trapped feeling that came with my job.
The last two summers I had worked for the Lowell Ledger, writing roughly 40 stories about various things. Taking up to four story assignments every week to make extra money is one of the easiest ways to burn yourself out and ruin your weekends.
I didn’t have much time to dedicate to traveling, and the time that I did have was filled with the work that needed to be done for the paper. So I changed that. Instead I chose to take zero jobs, and I focused on being with my family and working on my childhood home.
Now that was an extreme measure, especially for a college senior who is getting an apartment for the first time in his life. Admittedly, I’m a little tight on money. To me, though, the benefits outweighed the financial downsides.
The first two months I spent at home I focused on my body. Being in the dorms with no desire to go any other place beyond the Torch office meant that I was too skinny, weak and reliant on a diet that consisted of an unhealthy amount of peanut butter. So I used my time at home to learn how to cook and eat a more diverse range of foods.
Along with that, I started working out with the one person that I new would make fun of me, yet still encourage me as a personal trainer: my sister. I’m not really sure how, but our relationship improved. We managed to enhance our stereotypical brother sister relationship through her pushing me while we worked out.
That was the first thing that really made me happy.
July came and suddenly I found myself traveling with my best friend to Omaha, Nebraska where he had an internship with a baseball team. I spent a week with him running around the cities of both Omaha and Lincoln for the 4th of July.
I then travelled to southern Wisconsin to stay with my cousin, his wife and their daughter. It was the one place I felt like I could talk to people about how I’ve been feeling without fear of making them sad. They provided an outlet for me to pour out the feelings that I’ve been keeping in for the better part of 15 months.
Driving the long way, I had ten hours to reflect on the two week trip. There were two cages that I felt were opened for me. The first being the cage of feeling stuck. I had travelled over a thousand miles halfway across the country and back. My mental struggles resided in the second cage.
It was the first time in years where the sole person I was trying to keep happy and safe was me. I realized that my mental state was too reliant on how others were feeling. If others were happy, then I was happy. If they were sad, I was sad.
Trying to get everyone else happy, bosses, co-workers, friends, family, professors, that random guy who was on the other side of the dorm wall, exhausted me to the point of breaking down. I didn’t allow myself to feel happy for my own accomplishments.
Having two weeks to take care of myself allowed me to clear my head and come to terms with the side of myself that feels the need to please others. I’m happy that it’s there, of course. Ultimately, my goal is to make sure I can make everyone I’m close with happy. But learning how to manage it and begin to enjoy what I’m doing again has been imperative to me getting happy again.
I’m not 100% back to where I was prior to everything happening. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be, but having the summer tour to make progress has allowed me to enter my senior year with the best mindset I’ve had since my sophomore year.