I couldn't help but scoff a little when I got the email from the School of Journalism with the subject line, "End of the Year Updates."
Graduation was just around the corner and they wanted stories of our success to share with the class of 2018. Others have plenty to share. I've kept up on social media. I have watched those talented standouts continue to shine even more brightly than they had while in school.
Myself on the other hand, have nothing to show.
During my sophomore year of school I knew that I would never work for a newspaper. Even then in 2013 we could feel the climate shifting and changing into something new. Everywhere I looked, it seemed like I had signed myself up for a huge struggle in the future.
"Journalism is dead! Everyone is a photographer! Staff is being cut by 33% at most publications! Freelance is the future!"
All I really knew was that I wanted to write and travel. I wanted to meet people and hear their stories. I wanted to make the world feel a little less gloom and doom. So, as most of you know I opted out of deciding anything after graduation.
I packed my backpack, one carry on and took my one-way ticket to Europe and turned it into a year abroad.
Thinking about my time abroad is still slightly overwhelming. I remember how scared I was at first. I wondered if I had made a mistake. I felt alone those first few weeks with the family I worked for. But as with most everything, it got better with time. OK screw that, it became the absolute best, most wonderful, exhilarating, liberating and life shifting experience I've had in my entire life (so far).
My last day in Bergamo I wandered the cobblestone piazzas, sat in my favorite churches one last time and drank as many latte macchiato's as I could handle. I wept at the fountain in piazza Pontida thinking about how I had to return to reality.
The depression of returning to the USA was intense. In fact, it was so intense I didn't even realize that I was depressed. I did everything in my power to stay busy. I started working 4 part-time jobs, I lied to myself that I could be back in Italy in less than a year. I worked hard, saved as much as I could and watched as I failed to meet my deadline. I gave myself another 6 months, and again, watched as I failed.
The frustration with myself was intense. Why couldn't I get my crap together? What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I better?
Funny enough, looking back on that first year back I didn't realize that I was depressed at all. I just thought I was tired all the time from working 60 hours or more and living on my own. I didn't go out with friends because, "Sorry I can't, I have to save every penny for my visa." I stopped leaving my house on the weekends because, "Gas costs money, too!"
Slowly, I sank into a very dark and quiet place. The tunnel I had constructed to narrow my vision no longer had a light at the end of it. It was like someone had shut the door and I was too tired to fight to get out.
I stayed in the tunnel for months. I stayed there through one road block after another. After one heart shattering breakup, losing my job, the death my great-grandfather and finally accepting that I was not ok, I wondered when I was ever going to, "catch a break," from my self-induced misery and you have where I was 5 months ago this January.
Slowly, I started crawling toward where the light used to be. I wrestled with my inner demons telling me that I had already accomplished my life long dream and that nothing would ever live up to what I had experienced in the past. My ego reminded me how amazing my life was and how much of a screw up I was for not getting back to Italy. I stopped writing. My best friends became the characters on Netflix and mindlessly watching season after season of shows became my escape from reality.
One day, I don't remember when or why, I decided that I was done. I couldn't keep doing this. 2018 needed to be better than 2017 and I couldn't do that where I was. I needed to get myself out of the dark and back on track to somewhere, anywhere but there.
My first step was shutting off my phone. No more binge watching shows. I had to start dealing with what I was feeling.
The shift inside me manifested into reality so many amazing things. Suddenly my phone was ringing and buzzing from friends that I hadn't seen in weeks. The sun came out and I found myself out wandering in nature. Books appeared that replaced my mindless consuming of TV. I changed my diet and lost 22 pounds. I stopped skipping my gym classes and started adding in more.
Of course, there are many days (more than I care to admit) that I am down on myself about still just working at a coffee shop and nannying. It's those times when I remember that a year ago at this time I was miserable sitting at a desk unappreciated and taken advantage of by my bosses. Now I might work 2 part-time jobs but they allow me the flexibility to start my own business and follow my passion.
For those of you reading this who might feel the same or have felt like this before, I want to assure you that you're never alone. Your inner demons will tell you that you are alone and that you have failed miserably and will never be as happy as you once were. Don't believe the lies you tell yourself.
Leave me a comment below and let me know what you do when you start to feel that black cloud rolling into your life.
A prossima volta,
(until next time)