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Choose to be happy

As part of the newspaper production class, we are required to write letters to our class advisor, Bob Bergland. I recently uncovered some of these letters of mine, dating back to the beginning of 2013 when I first started writing for the paper as a staff writer.

I unfortunately wasn’t prepared for what my past self had written. Two of the letters read the exact same way: that I was struggling.

“Honestly, I’m tired; both physically and mentally.”

It wasn’t just school, either.

A few months ago, just as the semester was ending, my grandfather became ill. Watching him deteriorate was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do, and I remember feeling powerless; there was nothing I could do but try and be strong for those around me.

Unfortunately, due to the pressures of finals, my emotions caught up to me, and I broke down.

Battered and bruised, I picked myself up for the summer.

And, in all honesty, it was the greatest summer of my life. I presented at a conference in Europe, became friends with some truly amazing people, watched two of those people get married and met a girl.

All the while, I began living my life with a new perspective: having no regrets. I have my mother to thank for that advice; it’s how she’s been living her life for quite some time now, and she is still the strongest person that I know.

Now, while this simple phrase may mean to seize every opportunity that you’re given, I tend to focus more on its hidden meaning: never regret anything that you have or have not done, because there’s no changing what has already happened. You simply move on and continue living while doing your best to improve yourself each day.

I live my life by other words of wisdom as well.

“We all do bad things. It doesn’t mean we’re bad people.”

“There’s a time for daring and a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.”

“Life goes on.”

Yet, as the current semester began, everything changed. I experienced heartbreak, frustration and sadness coupled with copious amounts of homework that prevented me from seeing my friends and family on a regular basis.

No matter what I tried, I just couldn’t escape the sadness. It clung to me wherever I went, and I couldn’t shake it. Even when I was happy, thoughts lingered in the back of my head and would eventually bring me right back down.

So, I decided to turn to the counseling center here on campus. Being able to talk to an outside party – someone who had no bias in my struggles – was liberating, and even though I would have to work through most of my struggles on my own, being able to lie all of my cards on the table for someone to help me sort out was definitely helpful.

So what’s the point of all of this? The point is that things will always get better. I’ve never been in a situation where this general fact doesn’t apply.

The problem? Most of the time, it’s a slow process. It has been for me.

The fact that I’m at the mercy of time itself is what makes this process so hard for me, and for others. I like being in control and knowing ways to expedite any feelings of well-being, but that doesn’t apply here. There is no easy road; there are no shortcuts. I must simply wait and keep myself busy, knowing that, at some unidentifiable time in the near future, everything will be okay again.

And things have been getting better. Friends and family are incredible gifts to have in times like these, but I feel as though I myself had to make the choice to move on. I had to make the choice to be happy again. Those sad songs that littered my iPod have their place, and there are moments when I just do need to feel sad sometimes. And that’s okay.

However, it’s when I can listen to ACDC and sing/scream along to the lyrics that I feel truly happy. It’s when someone sends me a video of Robin Williams doing standup on Broadway that I feel truly happy. And it’s when a new season of Parks and Recreation shows up on Netflix that I feel truly happy.  ­

That’s the key: choosing happiness. You need to do things that make you happy. You need to laugh with friends and know that there are people out there who want to see you happy.

Time will heal your wounds, but you need to be willing to reach out to others for help. You need to understand that happiness isn’t always something that just happens; sometimes it’s a choice that you need to make. So choose to be happy.

And about those letters to Dr. Bergland – I placed them right back where I found them: into a red folder containing all of the stories that I have written for the newspaper up to this point.

There’s no point in reading them anymore. But I do have them; they are a part of who I am. Who I was. They’re still there, and they are a reminder of what I have been through. The bad decisions that I’ve made, the pain that I’ve suffered – it’s all in the past, and there’s no point in focusing on any of it, because, frankly, I don’t do regrets.

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