Twenty-sixteen has been a year of intense emotional turmoil, starting from even just the first week of January. Several unexpected changes in friends’ families, drama in my community, the most deaths and permanent accidents on college campus in recent history, a cruelly busy semester of my own design, the build-up to elections that left me in such a panic that I could barely keep from crying as I walked to classes because just thinking about the potential future of our country made me physically sick….
Although I’m not a superstitious person, I was really looking forward to 2017. With a new year, naturally everything would go back the way it was supposed to be. People would stop dying. Parents would stop getting deadly heart attacks.
Well, 2017 isn’t a magical number that will automatically snap all our lives back into place. A friend of mine still lost his dad suddenly within the first week of January. Things will always happen.
But in 2016, I let fear and anxiety nearly consume me. Admittedly, most of it was from the elections and what apocalypse could descend if Hillary Clinton won the race. But much of it was also a demanding schedule, little down time, too much journalism newspaper homework that scared the tar out of me, and overall negative thoughts.
Whenever I would start to panic about one problem or another, my roommate would always insist everything would work out. She either had incredible faith or was nearly consumed by apathy, because it just seemed that nothing ever bothered her. She’d combat me with my own fears, insisting that everything always works out.
She either had incredible faith or was nearly consumed by apathy, because it just seemed that nothing ever bothered her.
“God’s going to make everything okay,” she’d tell me. Then she attacked with the humiliating question of, “Do you not trust God to handle the world?”
This semester — and hopefully for the rest of 2017 and beyond — I want to change my aspect on life. Trust God with my problems. Return to that childlike mind I had when I was little, where nothing bothered me and everything worked out in the long run.
Worrying about my problems never fixed any of them. And about 99% of the time, those fears never came to pass anyway. We were never killed in a car wreck. A family member never died of a heart attack. Terrorists never stormed the school. I never failed any of my classes (quite the opposite).
Mom told me today that one of the things that helps her get out of her negativity is to think of a happy place. That sounds like something from Peter Pan or instructions on how to call up a Patronus, but she said she thought about a project that she really enjoyed doing. Every time she remembered it, she became very happy and the negative thoughts disappeared.
Over Christmas break, I found my happy place: our newly renovated basement, designed to look like a log cabin in the mountains. We transformed it over the summer from a dirty, cold, spider-infested 70s basement — complete with paneled walls, drop ceiling, and stiff carpet — into a vacation not more than a flight of stairs away. We added a gas fireplace, a mantle made from a log, a new TV and sound system, a fully-stocked bookcase that covers a whole wall, and a big rug so thick and soft that you can literally make snow angels in it.
I went down there to shoot some billiards by myself, and as Charlie Brown music played from the new sound system, the sun streamed through the windows and alighted the room on fire. When I aimed my cue ball toward the easiest target, my toes buried deep in the snow-rug, I decided once and for all that this was my happy place.
I decided once and for all that this was my happy place.
I may be going back to school Friday. I may have to fly alone for the first time by myself. I may give justified reasons why I can worry about the airport, potential riots, terrorist activity. But I’m determined to stay positive this semester. I’m going to stay happy. I won’t worry. I won’t complain. I’m going to be bursting with radiance, spreading my contagious joy to everyone within a five-mile radius.
And I’m going to have my happy place. Even if I can’t shrink the whole basement and stash it in my checked bag for Florida, it’ll still be there, waiting for me, giving me something to be happy about and look forward to when I come back for the summer.