Chapter 10: #Happy Life

Chapter 10: #Happy Life

Chapter 10: #Happy Life

In this final chapter, I aim to keep it short and simple and share a part of my own story. Today, I woke up inspired by an article about a guitar player who is not only a rock 'n' roll star but also someone I had the pleasure of meeting and sharing a beer with once. She was very candid about her struggles with depression, sadness, and mental illness, striving to break the unfortunate stigma that still surrounds mental health issues. As I conclude this book, I realize that I have fallen short in being as open as I could have been about my own struggles.

The title of this chapter was a hashtag I frequently used on Instagram from 2014 to 2017. During that period, I delved into numerous self-help books and sought therapy. I also consumed alcohol regularly and grappled with some form of mental illness that hindered my progress. Anxiety and a lack of self-confidence were my constant companions. In essence, my mind wasn't fulfilling its potential, and I consistently felt inadequate.

However, with the unwavering support of my family and a close circle of friends at the time, who guided me through challenging moments, I managed to continue learning and acquire valuable insights that I believed would benefit me in the future. I always viewed my years in the context of my lifetime. Experiencing 3-5 arduous mental health years in my twenties wouldn't be significant if it led to an unbreakable mental fortitude in my forties.

Despite not being happy, I used that hashtag. I read every book on happiness that I could lay my hands on, even though personal happiness eluded me. Whether it stemmed from childhood traumatic memories, lost love, missed opportunities, shattered confidence, or transient factors like distressing news stories, my state of mind wasn't at its best.

But looking back at it now, those were some of the best years of my life, and I would not change them at all. I actually accomplished quite a bit. I was able to go to Paris and Europe for the first time, I held several internships where I met some incredible people. I had a fantastic group of friends with whom I shared memories that will last far longer than the friendships did. I was able to find my own path and my own way of being creative by continually working on my photography and eventually began writing. Photography and writing are two incredibly powerful artistic forces that I cannot imagine ever not doing in the future. However, eight years ago, the thought of writing 10,000 words on anything would have been something that would have made my brain go into physical pain.

I also began walking 10,000 steps a day and have continued that practice. I picked up Marie Kondo's book and am no longer a messy person. I can't imagine I ever lived like I did. The fact is, people change. Making smart behavioral changes and introducing good new healthy habits pay large dividends in the future. Simply making a salad a week is a good place to start. Next month, you can have two salads a week, and by the end of the year, you will be living a full-blown healthy lifestyle.

Professionally, I am at a zero in some ways, which is better than a lot of people who have a lot more money than my $60 that's currently in my checking account. I always thought I would end up with a government job in Sacramento at some point in the CA state legislature. Unfortunately, that has not been the case due to a variety of reasons that are not really that important. I am just too much of an avant-garde artist at heart to be wearing a suit and tie to work every day, doing the bidding of someone else, I guess. With that said, I have zero credit card debt and zero student loan debt, and I am a homeowner of a new home, which is a lot better than people who are $100,000 or more in debt and are constantly stressed about money.

In 2017, my sister left an abusive, mentally ill relationship and began living with me and my father. She is also on disability for severe mental illness, much like my mom, whom I have not talked to in almost 30 years. There are problems that every normal person has in their life, and then there are the problems of the severely mentally ill. The mental world in which they live every day is one that is tormenting to the soul and painful. I would not wish severe mental illness on anyone, ever.

For me, forgiveness and compassion are better places to live than fear and resentment. Calmness and slowness are better places to live than anxiety and chaos. For me, logic is the path that got me to a better place. The logic that I believe has always been buried beneath some very serious memories. People tend to become who they are meant to become. Forcing things in life is a fool's errand, and I try my best to stop being a fool.

If a relationship failed, it just means it wasn't meant to be. It's better to wish them a better, happy life with someone else than to stew in resentment and endless "what if..."s. In my mid-20s, my girlfriend of five years and I broke up. After months of her complaining about my inability to get a better job and my growing depression, the five-year relationship reached its end. A few months after the breakup, she moved off my block (we lived down the street from each other) because her father had purchased a new home for her. A few months after that, she met someone new and is now a mom, and I believe she is in a happy marriage. Even though we will never talk again and I won't ever see her, I still wish her all the best and a happy life. Letting go of things is just a better place to live.

From my experience, people change for the better as they get older. In high school, I had a close female friend who was a train wreck of drama and chaos for four years. I lived in a military town, and when we all turned 18, it was somewhat of a point of gossip to see who would "join." Also, being a regular guy with a basic job in a town that had an active military base full of older 20-something guys in uniform all the time during a time when the USA was at war, my dating life at 18-20 was incredibly difficult. The competition from other guys in the area was just too intense. Anyway, this girl from high school joined the military at 19 and was promptly dismissed by the military at 20. But several years ago, when I was 30, I saw her at Walmart with her husband and she had four kids running around her shopping cart, pretending she didn't notice me. She figured enough stuff out to become a responsible adult and is no longer a train wreck of drama and chaos. People can change 100%.

A similar situation repeated itself a couple of years later. A girlfriend from high school who helped me during my breakup had also recently broken up with her then-husband. We became friends again but quickly ended our friendship, in part because we had unresolved personal issues we never dealt with. But a few months after that, she met someone new and is now married with kids and living a happy life.

In my early 30s, something similar happened again with a different girlfriend from high school who helped me through that "breakup." My point is that I learned so much from those experiences, not only about women, people, and friends, but also about myself. Our stories grow and change as we get older, and we have the ability to completely alter our lives if we want to.

Several years ago, I was at a friend's house celebrating New Year's Eve and a birthday. A man I thought I knew to be a decent guy and had known for well over a decade by that point did what no man should do. He began pushing his old lady around on her birthday and in front of me. Luckily, I was there to literally smack some sense into him. Eventually, he got arrested that night. That event could have ended the abusive relationship, but kids were involved, and family decisions are family decisions and none of my business. But I have heard that in the years since, he has stopped his evil ways and improved his professional and personal relationships. I believe that even after 5 years, they are still together, and there has not been a major incident like that again.

When "Life Happens" to us, it can be easy to take the easy way out of dealing with the event or problems. We turn to alcohol to numb our feelings away. Unfortunately, what that does is just delay the pain to a later date in time. Eventually, that psychology catches up to us, and we get tossed back to square one, having to start over again. It is better to avoid drinking at all costs if you can. For the last 5 years, I have barely had anything to drink, and my mental health has never been better. I dropped consuming self-help advice and alcohol and picked up writing and better habits, which have brought me more calmness to my mental health than I ever thought possible. If this has worked for me, I would bet that it would probably work for you as well.

Sometimes, "Life Happens" and kicks us straight in the ass. These moments can, at first, feel like we got run over by a train, and we will never get up from the pain and hurt of that "Life Happens" event. But eventually, future life happens events become simply a "Hey, how are you doing" events that give us greater perspective on things.

My 2022 began with my dad telling me he had pains in his chest and trouble breathing. I had to take him to the emergency room, and for 24 hours, I was not sure if he was going to be alive or not due to embolisms. Thankfully, the doctors treated him, and he has remained healthy ever since. It was a crisis averted. This shock to my system gave me a rebirth of sorts. Not getting the career I wanted or the girlfriend and wife I wanted are nothing compared to not waking up in the morning. Being alive every day is a gift and a blessing and something we all take for granted every day. But it is also something we can work on improving because the tomorrows of the future are not guaranteed.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this book as much as I have enjoyed putting it together. I hope that I and my CHAT GPT use have provided enough tools to help fix some mental health "problems." Just remember, you are probably already doing the right things. No need to sweat the small stuff.

And it is all small stuff.

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