Recalling the dark moments of my mind in the months leading to the biggest change of my life is difficult. It is scary because, in order to tell you the full story, I have to revisit some of the worst emotions in my life and try to bring life to them to share with you. Though I will tell you that it was in the midst of these dark moments that I was eventually brought to life.
So the story begins (kind of, I never knew the real beginning until much later): It is the fall of 2012 at Boise State University. I was working as a Program Assistant (helping college freshmen in the business field), a barista, a marketing intern at the Taco Bell Arena, and a site leader for the Volunteer Service Board on campus. To say I was busy was a massive understatement, but the fact that I was depressed, few people could tell.
I am no stranger to depression. It had visited me many times in high school. The most notable moment when I was 14 and attempted suicide by taking all of the pills in my mom's bedside table. Counting every single one, all the way to 70. I fell to sleep in tears and was bewildered and disappointed that I woke up the next morning. The only evidence of the night before being a rash that itched to no avail. The rash did not go unnoticed at school, and when I jokingly told one of my dear friends what had happened, she was courageous and told our school counselor. Help came my way.
I knew how long it had taken to heal from that experience... or at least cover it up, and I did not take this feeling lightly. I sought help myself and was not afraid to use the University's free counseling services. I went as often as I could, but the looming darkness and sick feeling did not subside. Hopelessness overtook me in a way that I never felt I would escape.
My depression affected everything. I could no longer wake up for my classes despite the fact that my first ones started at 2pm. Even after I had slept enough, my body and mind were too fatigued for use. What was worse was that I was supposed to be a mentor for college freshmen, and I just tried to cover every emotion I was feeling with a new coat of activity and some shiny student involvement.
There were so many times that I had just wished for death simply to relieve me of the pain that I felt. During that winter, I walked along the green belt sinking in the shadows of the trees imagining that I could accidentally fall into the river. When I drove, I imagined sliding off of a bridge and wondered if I would even get a sinking feeling as my car lurched downward.
What was so wrong with my life that I couldn't bear the pains of my own existence? There was little room for vulnerability in my life. I gave myself a way to be, and I simply was. Instead of acknowledging anything that I was feeling and choosing to be that way, I ignored my emotions altogether. The distance allowed for momentary bliss, but this is precisely where my problem lied.
When you start ignoring your feelings, you stop feeling them. Then, moments of intense emotion surge into you that you don't feel you have any control over and are far too dense to comprehend.
Those moments visited me as well. I could feel so intensely, but I had no connection to WHY I was feeling the way that I was in that particular moment.
Even as I would sit in the counselor's office trying to dig into my conscious, the best I could describe my feelings at the time was that I felt like a cement wall: strong, cold, lifeless, but with a sense of purpose.
It was strange to me to have a sense of purpose but no will to live. It was that sense of purpose that kept me going and kept my suicidal thoughts more passive.
There was always something grander at work. It was only during this time of my life that I actually recognized that. Most of my life I was either a questioning Catholic or a "logical" atheist. It was now that my beliefs in a higher power started forming.
In moments of isolation, I started to feel this wave of creativity that would surge through me. These surges consumed me enough to bring peace to my mind, and it was definitely something working through me rather than from me. The relief of pain planted a seed in my heart, and it was in the midst of this that I realized I should start focusing on creative outlets.
Writing songs freed me in a way that I didn't understand or expect. I was able to communicate my own feelings to myself. Because I had completely closed myself from feeling altogether, understanding how I felt was a major gift. It wasn't an overnight success to happiness, but I felt more connected to my emotions. It felt as though a higher power was speaking through me to help me become more connected.
Somewhere in the midst of this, I started meditating. I can't pinpoint the first time I meditated or what it was like, but perhaps learning about meditation in my business classes and how most successful people meditated which sparked my interest.
Meditation gave me clarity.
Through meditation and reflection, I began to realize patterns in myself and decided to leave Boise State University before the second semester of my junior year and pursue something--anything that I was actually passionate about. I felt I had no passion other than writing songs. Writing allowed me to be free and create, but I had no musical expertise. In an attempt to continue to grow and follow my passion, I decided to apply for a music school in Tennessee.
Despite my admittance to the University, my parents did not approve and said they would not help me with that transition at all. In partial defiance to my parents (who weren't helping me with school anyways) and in honor of my soul, I decided to leave school completely.
The truth was, going to another school to study something else wasn't right for me at the time. It would have kept me too busy to hear where life truly wanted to lead me. I just thought that if I was doing something to get educated, I would end up okay. Growing up, I had wanted to change the world, travel, act, write, and make music. My family valued security, and the only way they could foresee travel and art in my future was if I had a good education and a nice job to fall back on.
It was simply fear that was keeping me in school, but it was a higher power that was taking over that freed me of that burden. It did not matter where I ended up because I started to develop faith in guidance.
Peace came easily once I took the cuffs of a degree from my wrists. That's how I saw it. Something that was binding me to an existence I did not want.
(side note: education is 100% absolutely for some people. It is a great thing-- I think I will go back one day! However, it is certainly not for everyone, and you should always act in accordance with your gut and values.)
Pay close attention to your "why". It is the easiest way to keep yourself and your heart in check. If you are doing anything because of fear as opposed to for love, you are not on YOUR right path.
Focusing on the wrong things to try to lead you to the right things will only lead you closer to the wrong things. Where focus goes, energy flows.
So I decided I would focus on the right things. Everything I did was spiritually based, and I did whatever I felt was "right".
This meant making sure that I took time to be alone, meditate, exercise, and just do something that I liked to do for me: like writing. It was all about balance.
The changes in my life happened much more quickly than I could've imagined, and I started to feel happy as I was. It gave me the courage to tell my family that I would not be returning to school but also that I didn't have a plan.
The holidays home with them passed painfully, and January crept in slowly. Being home with my family did not help. In fact, it made things much more difficult. They could only see one way that I should live my life and the fact that I no longer cared to live that life made them look down on me.
I felt happy that I did not open up to them when I was struggling because I don't think I could've bared their response. When I assured them that nothing had happened to me, they decided that something was wrong with me. First, they insisted that something horrible had happened to me at Boise State University and was causing me to act this way. They said I was stupid, wasting my mind, and that I would regret it.
Honestly, I didn't know at the time if I would regret it, but I trusted my gut. I trusted my gut in moving in with a friend that I didn't know very well but felt had the heart of a saint.
January of 2013, I moved into what was unofficially known as the T.K.E. Fraternity House, with the nickname "The Trap House" with 4 other guys (and Nina:)). It allowed me to live out all of my secret party desires that I never acted on in University (even though I never drank and would either leave or hang out in the basement and write). But I would pick up in the morning and touching about 75 red solo cups gives you the feeling that you were actually there. It was about this time that I started dating a friend of mine. He was very inspiring and altruistic, but he also related to the feelings of depression and uncertainty that we faced through expectations of life and future. It was his dedication to biking across the United States for affordable housing with Bike and Build that gave me the inspiration to step out of my own comfort zone and try something new.
One of my best friends, Hosanna, reached out to me around this time and said that she would be moving back to Fiji and suggested that I come with her. For some reason, it just made sense to, so I decided to leave. It wasn't more complicated than that because she and I have unshakeable beliefs and motivation when we pool our hearts together. When people asked me why I wanted to go to Fiji, my answer was, "I couldn't think of anything better to do."
How I would make it to Fiji was simple to me: I would sell my car! I sold my car for $850 on Craigslist. It left me enough money for a one-way plane ticket and $100 to live off. You probably think this sounds crazy, and it even sounds a bit crazy to me now. At the moment, nothing felt more right.
We planned our trip 2 months ahead of time. Those last two months flew by. I was working as a math and French tutor, biking to the different schools that I worked at. I continued to practice meditation and wrote daily. My mental state was drastically different that Spring than the Winter version of me had been.
Before I knew it, May 2013 had arrived. I was packing for my first trip across the ocean. I used a carry-on to load up my shoes and books and a big red and white polka dot suitcase. I loaded the full-size suitcase with as many clothes and toiletries that I could fit-- along with some cotton underwear for Hosanna (which used to be terribly difficult to find in Fiji). Although I would not be home for 8 more months, it was my boyfriend at the time who dropped me off at the airport, just days before he would leave on his own journey across the United States.
It was a transformative time, and this was the first major step that I took to change my life. I let go of previous expectations of myself. I started to pay attention to my emotions and give them time to be. I practiced self-care. I was fearless and faithful. But perhaps most importantly, I started to believe in God (a term that I was not yet comfortable saying) and instead expressed as pure loving energy that existed in all of us. The truth is that there is so much GOOD in the world: flow with it.
If you take a moment to pause in your busy life, the answers and direction you seek will find you. Meditation and writing gave me emotional stability, clarity, and confidence to move forward with my life.
Meditation is for everyone, but also make sure you are also finding something that gives you pleasure. Spend time with the people you love and care about because the divine speaks through them as well. Hosanna was always important to me, but I never imagined going to visit her in Fiji would change my life in the way that it did. In fact, I don't think that people realize how significant a role they have each played in helping me create this beautiful life I have today. It was literally every contribution that made it like it is.
I earnestly believe that we are all exactly where we are supposed to be, and everyone is absolutely perfect as they are (even and especially, you). We all have certain lessons that life is trying to gift us. All that you need to do to find truth is seek it, but if you don't seek it, it will seek you.
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