The human experience is a complex endeavor, made up of emotions, experiences, and wisdoms. Each emotion, sad, angry, depressed, happy, gleeful, joyful, and many others, is necessary to get the most out of life. One must overcome hardships, dips and peaks, and struggles. Each event, positive or negative shapes who we are.
Perhaps the best way to teach, is with example. For this, I will use my own life. It is what I know best, and I believe it adequately shows the joy that can be found from the sad. When we begin this tale, I am in 1st grade, living in Garden Valley, California.
Garden Valley, perhaps the best place I have ever lived. My family actually lived a few miles outside of town, in the mountains. We had a long, steep drive-way leading down to our house. The house was a pale blue, with a darker blue lining. It was a nice house, an old house, with many fond memories. We had a deck the hanged roughly 35 feet over the garden bellow. We used to sleep on the deck, gazing at the clearest sky I have ever seen. I mentioned we lived in the mountains--that wasn't even half of it. We had forests, stretching out for what seemed like forever, and, to top it all off, a waterfall. Not a small one either. This waterfall was roughly 50 feet high. It was... Mighty. During the Summers it would dry up, and one day, my father had my brother and I climb it--no ropes, gloves, or helmets. Oh, it was marvelous.
My school, Creekside, was amazing. It was named Creekside because it actually had a small creek running through it. The education was, well, I could do exponents and double digit multiplication in 1st grade. My friends... There was Austin, Dalton, Kevin, Crystal, Matthew, and a few others. They were, epic, in the truest sense of the word. I still remember my teacher, Ms. Alan. She was really cool. My life was amazing at this point. I had never been happier in my life, but soon things would take a radical change.
My parents out of a job forced us to move up to a town in Oregon in the middle of my 1st grade year. This is when things took a nose dive. We moved into a small house. A small, brown, dump. I soon started school at the local Elementary. In shock of the move, I turned into the shy little boy that cries constantly. Part of me, still is that kid, but only a part. I was bullied almost constantly. Mostly verbal, though on occasion it would get more serious. I was never cool, though I constantly fought to be accepted. I never was, not truly. Shunned by the outside world, I closed into myself, and that is where my true story begins.
I fell into a depression in 1st grade that lasted almost the next 5 years of my life. Second grade was much the same. My brother was also bullied, but he made friends. I made acquaintances. I am going to skip past Second grade, because nothing life changing happened that year. Third grade was a bad one. Every day after school my brother and I would go to Boy's & Girl's Club. Part way through third grade I thought I was finally making a friend. Spirits lifted. He was a boy several years ahead of myself, though we regularly hung out during B&G Club. Then...He sexually molested me. That one is tough. A friend, someone I had grown to trust, someone who was lifting me up. He ruined me. I was trash. He sent me spiraling further and further down into depression. Though, by this point, I had grown rather good at hiding my grief. My parents knew I hadn't had many friends, that I was being bullied "now and then," but they had no true idea. Just to make clear, my parents worked almost constantly, so I was home alone a lot.
Nothing big happened in fourth grade. I was still suffering from bullying, depression, and loneliness (I didn't mention this before, but I felt utterly alone through all of this). In fifth grade we moved to a bigger house, the one I am currently typing this from. It was a dump, but I got my own room finally (this comes in shortly). So, surrounded by darkness, in the middle of fifth grade I started attempting to take my own life. The pain had grown far too much for me to bare, and I needed it to go. My method of choice was that of slitting my own throat. I would sit on my bed, lights out, weeping, with a dagger pressed against my throat. The closest I came was drawing blood. Every time I failed, I felt even more pitiful. Who was I, so weak I couldn't even take my own life?! I was a looser! In total, over the span of 9 months or so, I attempted suicide 17 times. With every failed attempt I fell deeper. Again, my parents had no idea. Luckily for me, the school year ended and I had relief. I switched into an online school, Connections Academy, which probably saved my life. Solitude from everyone was just fine for me. I was used to being alone. At least at home no one could mock me (aside from my brother). I developed anger problems, though luckily I fixed those.
Only till about a year ago have I ever told someone.
That, is my story. That is my life, my history, my past. I have regretted nothing, nor would I ever change one thing. I still lapse into depression every now and then, and have contemplated suicide even just months ago. Yes, I still have problems, but I work through them. Each sorrow I have ever felt, or will feel, has and will shape me--In my opinion, for the best. I know of sadness. I know of pain. I know of being utterly alone, or at least feeling such. From these, I have gathered strength, will, and happiness that, I believe, can only be attained by undergoing a harsh pain. I look back, and I do not see a unfortunate past. I see the opportunity to learn, grow, and for wisdom. From each sorrow you can draw something good.
I urge you to rethink life. Rethink sadness and sorrow. Yes, without a doubt, it will be hard. You have survived, and you are alive. NEVER take that for granted. Life is the best gift given to you. Do not squander it.
Last year on Thanksgiving I made a big list of everyone I knew and thanked them each for something. I was going to do this again, but almost all of them would be the same as last year.
Instead I'm going to talk about my parents a little bit, since they've surely had a bigger influence on me than anyone else.
A lot of the good habits I have today, which essentially define who I am, come directly from my parents. They managed to steer me away from TV, drugs, and alcohol in such a way that I never considered rebelling by indulging in these things.
At one point or another, I was induced with the idea that I needed a personal mantra. The source for this idea was probably some article about stressed out people in a magazine, and me being a very stressed out person at times, found the idea fitting but also cheesy. Nonetheless, I came up with “Exhale stress, inhale appreciation.” I was thinking of a word to encapsulate all negative feelings I harbor, and a word to explain most good feelings. Stress- not sorrow, not anger- is what that came down to: stress about school, general anxiety about using my time wisely and following the right path, stress about friendships or lack thereof, etc. It also seemed that all good things came down to the idea of being grateful, of stepping back and recognizing that life is pretty amazing.
I interpret the idea of a mantra as something that comes up as a core thought, but leads to an action. For me, and probably for most mantra-makers, this is the breath. Literally, I breathe out releasing stress, and on the next inhale feel my mind filling with appreciation for my life. Although I may have just painted a picture of this mantra being very important to me and playing a big role of my daily life, it is really not that at all. And this is precisely why it’s special. I created this phrase long ago, yet at sporadic times of need it surfaces. It’s grounding and somehow, in an intermitted way, has a lasting effect on my mental framework.
If we can appreciate what we have in a specific moment, all of the negative energy in the world can subside, even if only episodically, and in that moment we are experiencing the purest form of happiness.
When I break it down further, I see why I am thankful. There’s more than could be thought consciously in my millisecond-long mantra, but its all down there and tied into that breath. This is the way I can reconcile a life of privilege and a life of self-inflicted stress.
Truly, I believe that this concept can be true for anyone, relative to his or her life. Regardless of class, the amount of food you have, how much you can spend on jeans, who you have relationships with, or what your education is, you still should have something to be thankful for. Even if, or even better, the thing you are thankful for can be the Earth, your life, or a memory.