There are many things in this world which we take for granted, things that seem so small, things that seem promised, as though we will always have them, until we lose them.
I believe we all lose something like that in our lifetime, for some it is a physical thing, for others it is a person, and for me, it was a feeling. It wasn’t until high school that depression suddenly came over me, and a few months after that I realized how I’d taken my happiness for granted. Now that it was mostly gone, everything was bleak. Sometimes, it would get worse, and other times it would get better. Sometimes I’d talk to a therapist about it, and eventually I stopped going, not because I was no longer depressed, but because it wasn’t working. Plus, my depression was not one that appeared to be severe to others, I never self-harmed, I never had suicidal thoughts, everything was simply dark, and gray, and seemed hopeless, but nobody else can see that. As I always was, I was afraid to ask for help, I told myself that I didn’t want help, I could do this on my own. So, after she asked again and again, I told everyone that I was fine. Because that is exactly what I was, fine. I wasn’t good, wasn’t great, wasn’t terrible, but fine, I suppose.
Depression was this little cloud that seemed to follow me everywhere I went, not quite big enough to shield the sunshine and rainbows that seemed so close but so far, but always hovering over me, making it seem impossible to see the sunshine first-hand. After I graduated high school, it followed me to college, and at times it was probably visible to others, but during the good times, only the people closest to me could see it. Ultimately, the sad truth for me, and many other people who suffer from mental health problems, was that people didn’t see it as depression, they only saw it as a part of me. They had never seen me without depression, and depression can be well-hidden, so this big cloud that always hovered over me, was simply a part of who I was to them. But, even if others couldn’t see it, depression affected everything that I did. Eventually, I accepted that it was a part of me that wasn’t going anywhere, and that was okay, because I’d learned to live with it. But as many of us do, even though I felt this depression each and every day, I constructed my online presence to make me look happy. What I shared online were only the parts of me that I wanted others to see, the person I wanted and tried to be, but the person I never really was. On top of that, I’d buy things and tell myself that one day, after I was living in the city and had a real career and I had money to buy more beautiful things, that I wouldn’t feel so empty. But, the truth of the matter was that as nice as material things were, I’d feel giddy for about a minute, and then that same, sinking feeling would come back. As much as I thought I wanted this glamorous, posh, materialistic life, I think that I knew, deep down, it wouldn’t be enough for me. But, I was sought off to find out.
So, I packed up my life into three suitcases, hugged my best friends goodbye, shed a few tears, and boarded the next plane to New York City. After the hard part, which was saying goodbye to my them, it was a lot easier to leave than I thought it would be. I left the sunshine state and decided it was time to start my life in the empire state, the life that I dreamed of for the past two decades, in pursuit of happiness. Without a doubt, one of my favorite quotes about the city and about life in general, I suppose my life specifically, is by Kurt Vonnegut, where he said “I went to New York to be born again”
And I was.
I was born again. I boarded the plane and took the biggest step towards my future, something that many twenty-year-olds don’t do, especially on their own when they don’t know a soul in the brand new city where they’re moving. Suddenly, the cloud that had been hovering over me for so long was no longer there, it stayed behind. I felt the city changing me with each day that passed, l felt at home here, and perhaps most importantly, I felt happy here. What I found to be the funniest thing so far is that I had a huge transformation, as many do when they move here, that rebirth that so many crave and can only hope for when they make a life for themselves here, but that person I was reborn into was most certainly not the person that I always thought I would be. But, that’s just it. I’d always watch movies and through a few fictional characters that lived in the city, women that I’d always admired, and decided that was the woman I was going to be. Initially, at the beginning of the summer, this was the woman that I actively tried to be, the woman that I tried to dress like, but as I tried to be this woman, I felt that it was a beautiful role, but one that wasn’t made for me. Then, I felt lost.
I am a firm believer that every single person who comes into our lives, comes for a reason. Some come into our lives and stay, and others leave rather quickly, but everybody has something to teach us, a lesson that we would not have learned on our own. I don’t believe in coincidences, and I believe that life and the universe have a way of placing people in our lives to teach us things that we need to learn. Life placed a person in my life a couple of months after I moved to the city, a wonderful person, an extraordinary person. She had the most fascinating way of looking at the world, one that was carefree, a sunny disposition, both of which were a huge contrast to mine. It was one that I couldn’t help but admire, and she was always smiling, always laughing. She met me in the midst of life bringing me down, the city throwing me curveballs and testing my limits, and me realizing that I wasn’t and wouldn’t be the woman I always thought I would be, which felt like a loss, and in general I was lost. She met me right before the friends I had made in the summer went back to school and desperately needed a friend here, a time where I felt lost and didn’t even know who I was. Whether she realized it or not, at the time, she started to change me. Being with her was effortless, and without even trying, she helped me find who I was, something I had been searching for a long time. Now, fast-forward a few months, and I finally feel comfortable in who I am, and I can’t remember the last time that I was this happy, not only directly because of her, because ultimately we cannot depend on others for our happiness nor can we let others define who we are, but because she helped me find myself, and being content and confident in that turned out to have been the key to happiness all along. But, as big of a part as she was in this, and as much as being in the city helped, they were not the only ones who helped me on my road to recovery from mental illness. Something that those of us who have and still do suffer from mental illness need to tell ourselves is that there is nothing more terrifying than fighting with our own minds, something we cannot control, and making steps towards recovery, big or small, is an incredibly brave thing to do. With the help of this person, teaching me about letting loose once in a while and allowing myself to be happy instead of stressed all the time, helping me find out who I am without even thinking about it, and the city, of course, and myself for being brave enough to fight this battle, I can finally say that I suffered from depression, as in past tense.
Now, I’m happy. I’m really happy. I love myself, because I finally feel like I know myself, everything has come full circle. Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to grow and change as we all do in life, but I no longer wait to become the person who I am supposed to be, to find who I am, because this summer I did. It wasn’t a lesson I could have ever learned on my own, without this amazing person, and it couldn’t have happened anywhere else but this amazing, charming little city of mine. What I wanted all along wasn’t the glamour, but the happiness that I thought would surely come with it. No, I don’t have a high-fashion, designer wardrobe, but I don’t want it anymore. I’m finally an individual, one that likes to express their creativity through how they dress, and I’m not attempting to be someone that I’m not. I don’t want all of the material things that I once thought I had to have to be happy, because for once, what I have is more than enough. I don’t want more things, because the fact of the matter is that I finally feel fulfilled, I’m finally happy, and none of that has to do with what is on my back, but the people who always have it.
I’ve learned a lot this summer, about myself and who I want to be, a lot of answers to questions that I didn’t even know I had, a lot about who I was and coming to terms and loving that person, but most of all, the most important thing that I learned this summer was what happiness is made of. Happiness is not measured in likes or followers, or in shoes or handbags, but in minutes that we spend making memories, and whom we share those memories with. Don’t give up on the pursuit of happiness, because it is out there.