I jumped into life in New York with my eyes closed and my faith and confidence level high. I relished the beauty of the present and looked forward to the promise of the future. Every day was new and guaranteed surprises and laughter.
I exuded a great beam of light wherever I went. My friends would sometimes comment on how my eyes shone bright or how I gave off a glow. The joy swelling in my chest simply overflowed.
My love for my new friends and desire to meet new people knew no boundaries. I sought them and made plans, something I hardly ever did back in Boston. I went out with friends for dinners, movies, Broadway shows, rooftop parties, social justice events, intimate gatherings, and seminars with keynote speakers. I experienced fun study sessions that lasted until 4 in the morning, bonding with my study buddies. I wanted people to be joyful and safe around me. My bubble was a no-judgment zone full acceptance and love.
And yet, despite all this positive energy, negativity held on to a portion of my mind, opening it up to fears of rejection and emotional pain. I knew I suffered from depression but dragged my feet on seeing a therapist. As a Haitian American, it wasn’t part of my culture growing up to seek mental health services. Praying was our therapy.
But sometimes prayer honestly isn’t enough and one needs physical medical attention or assistance.
My depression wasn’t crippling enough to stop me from attending classes and functioning in day-to-day activities. Therefore, I didn’t think it was necessary to seek help. I thought I could handle the pain myself and overcome the pressure behind my eyes, the creeping thoughts of loneliness, and occasional aches from unexplained sadness. I couldn’t visualize speaking to a person about my problems so I would write down my thoughts in a journal instead.
It helped to be surrounded by a group of caring, wonderful people. Most of the time I wasn’t even aware of my negativity, only when I was alone. And then one day I had an interesting exchange of text messages with a very good friend, someone I would eventually fall in love with. She was a Buddhist and exposed me to Buddhist philosophy and teachings. I’ll never forget an analogy of life she gave me.
She told me to imagine my mind as a tall building. If I wanted to turn all the lights in each floor, it would take a lot of time and effort. But if I brought out the sun, then the whole building would be illuminated all at once. She told me to bring out the sun. Back then I wasn’t exactly sure how to do that, but her words comforted me and helped pull me further out of my quicksand of negativity. She led me to become more aware of my thoughts and feelings, and to catch negativity at its root.
Little did she know, she was saving my life and shifting it towards a new, liberating direction. I would take this new perspective with me to my next destination after New York.
My graduation from Columbia was bittersweet. I knew I would miss my friends, the City, the great food, and the simple joy of walking down Riverside and Central Park. But I had to move on.
I made the wild decision of leaving the U.S. and spending a year in another country with a completely different culture.
I was going to Seoul, South Korea.
To be continued…
How about you? I’m sure we all have met someone how has helped change our lives for the better. How has that person helped you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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