I am glad I exist. That’s not something I can always say. A therapist told me that’s called passive suicidal ideation. I never plan anything, but the question of whether or not it’s all worth it is something that comes to mind, if not often, then with reoccurrence. I feel like this is pretty common with a lot of people. Especially around midterm season, haha. I don’t want anyone to worry. That’s not what this is about. This is about what has helped me in the last week to really feel like it is all worth it.

I had a bit of a slump the last month. It started with a parking ticket. I’ve been cited for parking before, but for some reason this one got to me. I found the ticket on my windshield while rushing to class on a cold morning and then, when arriving at school, I discovered I couldn’t get out of my car. So, I sat and cried for ten minutes in my front seat. Then I went to the gym. Then I cried in the shower for bit, after which I got dressed. Once dressed, I curled in a ball on the floor in my room and hugged my wet towel while I proceeded to have one of the worst breakdowns I’ve had in years. The one unavoidable thought through all this was how much of an idiot I was, how stupid I was for parking in that spot, and how dumb it was to not go to class, and how worthless I am because I’m so stupid and have no real life-plan. Just continuous terrible self-speech.

This string of events led to a two-week slump where I found I often couldn’t get out of bed to go to class, and when I could get out of bed, it took a mountain of effort to get out of my car and walk to school. My grades dropped as I missed class and couldn’t do assignments. This only amplified the feeling that I was stupid and worthless and always would be. Work was different though. It was easy to go to work. I think that is because it is such a welcoming environment completely free of judgement where I can feel like I am accomplishing something even if it is just food service and heaving lifting. I realized I really feel appreciated and seen at work in ways that I don’t when I am going about my day to day life in class and working on homework in the library.

After really thinking about it hard for a while, I found that my real problem – seasonal depression aside – is that I don’t feel like the lives of the people around me are better because I am in them. When I am at school I am completely self-devoted; working on homework and studying are things I completely do for myself so that I can have a good life as a result of a good career that will allow me to support a family and have all of those things that I have been taught are what lead to happiness. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying these things aren’t good, but all my thinking has put me where I can see that nothing should “lead” to happiness. If I can’t find happiness where I am, I am not going to find it when I have a good career or a family. Those things can certainly add to happiness, but they can’t give it to me if I haven’t become the type of person who can be happy. This led me to the question of how do I become a happy person? What am I doing wrong that is making me unhappy? Why don’t I have the feeling I have at work in my day to day life?

I can’t see people. That was the first problem I came across. My roommate and I watched Avatar the other day. The indigenous blue people had a phrase they used when greeting those they appreciate. They would say, “I see you”. When I am at school, just doing my duties in search of those “better things” education offers, I completely shut off my companionship side. I don’t talk to people; I don’t connect with people. Everyone is just an obstacle to me getting to where I need to be and doing what I need to do. That isn’t the mindset of a happy person. It is a dam to true connections. If I come to everything with that mindset, then my default judgement of everyone else’s mindset is that, I too am nothing more than an obstacle to their larger and better goals in life. So, on the days where my performances are subpar, on the days where I get a parking ticket and skip class and fail assignments, I am not only an obstacle for all the strangers and acquaintances around me. I am an unproductive and useless obstacle to them. A speed bump in the middle of the freeway. And that, my beautiful people, is what this is about. I, nor you, nor anyone you have every met is a speed bump in the freeway. We all have weaknesses, we all have dreams and desires, and – most importantly – we all have a value that supersedes whatever higher goal we are working towards.

So, if you see me at school or at the gym, and I look grumpy or busy or too tired to greet you and connect with you, I beg, tell me you see me. Please remind me to see you. I want to. There is nothing I want more. I’m just out of practice. I really believe if I can slow down and see those around me and make an effort to connect, all of my life can be like work. I can feel connection and purpose and meaning wherever I go because there are people who need to be seen. People who have bought into the lie that happiness is waiting just over the mountain of education or behind the forest of adult romantic relationships. It’s not. It is right here right now in the appreciation of the existence of another human being. That is what makes it all worth it. Learning to affirm and appreciate other people’s existence is the only way to learn to appreciate your own. I am sure I will still have my moments of questioning if it’s all worth it after this experience but at least now I have cleared a path back to hope. And that is why I am sharing this. I want other people to have that path too. And at the very least know they’re not alone in their struggle against the grey meaninglessness that can overcome us at times.