Three years ago my world unraveled in a manner that essentially shit on almost every single way I went about life. I felt like I lost everything, who I was, my better judgment, and some days— my sense of reality.
Like most of us, my life has fallen apart and been rebuilt too many times to write about. I have pieced myself back together in the best way I could over and over again.
Fixated on repairing, I used others to hold the shards of myself together, hoping that their emotions would be the glue that solidified my ticket to happiness, disregarding that those who carried me could be ripped open by my edges.
However, eventually, we adapt to our consistent surroundings and revert back to old habits.
Suddenly new distractions don’t seem so new anymore. Suddenly, we are right back to where we fell apart. The glue dries up and parts of us begin to crack.
I started drinking a lot, not only to enjoy myself, being one of many millennials that celebrate the fundamentals of blacking out but to avoid emotion; to avoid emotion and to avoid the ugly nostalgia of permanently returning to the town I grew up in.
I drank to escape the responsibility I had to push myself forward once I’d stumble out of my drunken rerun. That’s what life had become for me, a rerun.
Seven years ago I left for college and became a new person—my world opened up in some ways, but in others, it remained closed. When I came back home after living away, everything seemed to remain the same. Isn’t that the way it always goes?
Something within us feels different but outside we’re stuck in a time warp. The roads don’t change, the people just get older, and everyone is still going out to the same places telling the same old jokes.
No wonder my reality felt off, I was merely existing.
I was doing something that almost all of us do in our own way, living each day to get to the next.
That’s not always depression, that’s just taking life for granted.
Over time though, I did get stuck inside a dark place within my head, but I wasn’t quite ready to collapse and settle for what was in front of me.
I felt my soul screaming to fight for myself, to have the courage to find my own answers instead letting circumstance tell me how I should live. I needed freedom to search for what I considered missing pieces, and the only way I could do that was to remove myself.
With the reluctant support of those that didn’t want to see me leave, I made a rash decision that ran down the east coast and stopped in Florida where my best friend and I began to start our new lives. I was going to find answers, to find peace. I was determined to, whether they were the right answers or the wrong ones? That, I knew I’d discover. But first, I needed to find a job.
What I anticipated what would have been smooth sailing seems more like a disenchantment now. The job that originally hired me, rescinded their offer. My already impulsive decision to move made it difficult for me to save, so basically I had come with nothing. Now, I couldn’t even buy a bed.
For almost sixty days and nights I slept on the floor, hoping that I made the right choice; the hard tile providing no validation.
Some days were really tough, for weeks we lived in a bare apartment and there were times we could barely purchase food. We had to get creative with our cooking skills. When you’re struggling to make ends meet, you don’t have to scrounge— you just have to look at things with an innovative eye.
I started playing with spices and reading about substituting ingredients, as a result, I became a better cook.
I noticed how the weather, with Florida’s consistent sunshine, really can affect one’s mood and how low I felt the second winter began to creep up.
I started appreciating what was around me because I was too poor to do whatever I wanted, so I had to find enjoyment in simple things, like going to the park. It was either that or wallow in some form of self-pity.
Still, I was happier there even with all my struggles. For a while, coasting on this new found happiness made everything bearable. Newness has a way of doing that. It all seemed wonderful until I started up my job and finally had the ability and funds to explore.
The people down south were different, the rules were less restrictive, even drinking laws were more lenient. Everything down in Florida moved at a much slower pace. I had to exercise patience and even understanding—not every grandè macchiato with a double shot of espresso can come out within a two-minute window. The culture was different. Some days I felt like I was living in another country, even the music on the radio wasn’t what I was used to—so it grew on me.
Human interaction seemed less familiar. My best friend and I were all alone. This meant to meet new people we’d have to put ourselves out of our comfort zones.
From the time we are young, we are given a built-in repertoire of persons to create certain relationships with people in school, people on your sports teams, your childhood friends. By the time you grow up, you’re already in it with them.
Moving to a totally new location as an adult, you have to start from scratch. I discovered I was a lot choosier with who I wanted to surround myself with and began to accept the fact that not all people jive together. Still, you have to be open before you can make a closed decision.
Not everyone you meet can be trusted. Crime is much higher in South Florida and we already had a few personal encounters to prove that. Everywhere we went we had to watch our belongings, be in tune to our whereabouts, double lock our doors, and more than anything exercise maturity.
Blackouts suddenly seemed extremely dangerous. Constantly having to be aware of what’s going on around you can be exhausting, but I was responsible for my own security.
In fact, my phone was even stolen right out of my purse at one point. Once again, I didn’t have the funds to immediately invest in a new one, so I handled my correspondence on my iPad when I had wifi. Without a phone, I couldn’t rely on Google maps like I was used to, directing everywhere I went. I had to pay attention to little things, street names, landmarks. I had to relearn how to look through an observant eye. I started doing other things to fill my spare time instead of scrolling between the same three apps on my phone when I was bored.
I remembered I liked to read.
However, I wasn’t done learning. I wasn’t done growing. The series of unfortunate events didn’t stop there. All the struggles my best friend and I had endured in Florida put a strain on our relationship, so for months, we existed in near silence. I lost my job, and soon after that my laptop, my most cherished possession and positive outlet broke.
Frustrated and exhausted, I fell back into drinking heavily. I felt like I was just floating, looking for anything to grasp. Instead, I chose to hold onto nothing.
Upon a visit home, I reconnected with what seemed a ghost from my past. Yet home was no longer home. The things I once surrounded myself with all seemed like smoke and mirrors, I just couldn’t see what was beyond that. Soon, I lost the only security I ever knew. I lost my hometown ghost too.
Without my emotional safety nets, my distractions, the trivial stimuli crowding my mind, I felt exposed and empty. But more than anything, I was yearning—for a reason as to why I lost everything that seemed to protect or deter me from looking closer.
Loneliness seemed to welcome me with open arms in a surprisingly inviting way. I was going to appreciate living in exile.
So, I went back to the basics. I took a break from the consistent drinking. I started a routine of eating healthy. Hell, I even tried to meditate. I began to remember what was simple and brought me personal joy. I bought a journal and picked up a pen. I didn’t need technology to type what I had to say. I just needed some paper and some ink.
If you pay attention when everything is ripped away from you, there is room for discovery in the spaces between grief and what may feel like emptiness in your heart.
Only when you’ve lost everything, can you truly find out what you really want. It’s up to us to accept this responsibility that the universe helps push towards us.
Constantly having a heightened awareness can be uncomfortable, and a lot of times it’s exhausting, but it opens up a new path of perception.
This is simply not taking life for granted. Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, once said: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
In my isolation, I didn’t lose everything. I was freed from it all. For most of my life I felt like I was sleeping, but now I am awake.