Here I am again. It seems that for the past 4 years my life rotates with the seasons.
Fall- start of first semester.
Winter- end of first semester.
New Year- start of second semester.
Summer- time to work full time.
Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
Almost like clockwork, this is how the past 4 years of my life have gone, and I would be lying if I told you this repeating cycle didn’t at time s make me feel trapped and stuck doing the same things over and over again.
When I first started college it was a brand new environment and experience for me. Going to a new town. Meeting new people. Learning New Things. Yet, after a few years I slowly could feel myself mentally confining myself to only certain activities and responsibilities. Don’t get me wrong; I still love meeting new people and doing and learning new things, but my attitude became that of sheltering myself and only doing the things that were familiar to me and never deviating from that plan.
There are a few reasons for this happening. I don’t want to put the blame for this on anyone else because at the end of the day the responsibility for my mental state is my own, but there were a few situations that occurred which shifted some things for me (chronologically).
- I lost one of my best friends in November of 2018, and this came as a huge surprise to me given that he was only 20 years old and was always so full of life. This was really the first time in my life that death had come and touched my immediate group of close friends, and I really struggled to wrap my head around it for quite awhile. Even now it is something that I think about frequently. I would say that I mostly handled this well, but it did contribute to making me even more introverted than I already am.
- I lived with a very toxic roommate. Without going into too much depth, my roommate was a constant complainer and had some serious mental health issues. He was addicted to his ADHD meds, had constant mood swings, and always blamed his problems on other people. Eventually, his negativity started to rub off on me, and now I can see how he negatively influenced my perspective on life in general. Thank God he is no longer my roommate.
- I got very sick the Spring of 2019. I couldn’t hold down any food. I had terrible chest inflammation from getting a sinus infection and coughing so much, and I never fully could get over the sinus issues. To be completely honest, all of this turned me into a hypochondriac for a few months and every little thing that went wrong with me physically, I believed was going to severely harm or kill me. I was afraid to eat the wrong thing, or to even exercise.
Add all this up and you get someone who is scared, afraid, and unsure of what to do once the semester was over. I started to get healthier right before summer, and I knew I wouldn’t be around my toxic roommate anymore so that helped. And yet I still felt stuck, like I was repeating the same actions over and over without any real progress or growth made in my life. I wanted a change. Rather, I needed a change.
There were a few jobs I was looking to land during the summer of 2019 but none of them ended up working out. I was pretty much out of options. That was until my current roommate asked if I wanted to work on a ranch with him. Hmm I thought, I have never done anything like this in my entire life. Never had a manual labor job. Never worked outside. Never even stepped foot on a ranch before.
I needed a paycheck and more than that I needed a change of scenery and a change of job duties. I was extremely happy to be given this opportunity, but more than anything?
I was scared.
I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do the job i was asked to do. I was scared that I wouldn’t fit in. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle it.
All of the doubt and insecurities I have harbored all came rising up inside of me once I got the job. But I knew that I had to do it. I had to test myself and see what I was really made of. I had to prove to MYSELF that I could do it and do it all well.
A few weeks go by and I am making the drive to the ranch, and I am literally in tears because of the sheer beauty surrounding the place that I will work at. I simply couldn’t believe how beautiful everything was. I arrived at the ranch and was greeted by the manager and introduced to all the workers. I was shown the single cabin I was staying in and left to make it my home for the next 4 months.
I brought over 20 books with me, because I wanted to dedicate some serious time to learning about the world and also myself. I had everything from self help to the history of Wikileaks on my shelf in that cabin.
That next morning, I woke up at 5:40 and got to work. I had exactly zero labor experience so everything was brand new to me, and I had to rely on the other employees to teach me just about everything. They were all wonderful people and I got along well with them all. After I got back to the cabin that first day at 5. I said to myself, okay Dave you survived your first day now your task is to survive the next. I went on thinking in this manner for about two weeks, and then I began to pick up on everything and master some basic skills needed to be on a ranch.
I began to believe in myself. I began to see that not only could I survive on this job, but I could seriously thrive and impress my coworkers with my work ethic and positive attitude. Every night after work I was reading and taking notes for at least an hour, and I began to do some soul searching. I found some flaws about me that I had previously turned a blind eye to, and I also found out some bad habits I had that were negatively affecting my relationship. I looked at myself unflinchingly, and wrote down the things I did wrong and how I could fix them. I looked at my behavior patterns and began to stop some negative things. I didn’t cringe or hate myself for having them; I simply accepted them and looked for ways to improve upon them.
Then something I didn’t expect happened. Instead of hating myself after finding out everything wrong with me, I began to seriously love myself. I would say it was a form of acceptance for the first time in my life, and I began to see the whole version of me. I loved it. I loved that I was a human being, and more than anything I loved that I had an accurate description of who I really was instead of deluding myself into thinking I was someone else.
My attitude became solution oriented. I stopped complaining that there were problems in my life and instead began looking for solutions. I had always been this way with school, but I had never tuned it towards myself or my actions in a way that was both realistic and actionable. This made me see the world in a different light. Instead of seeing it as full of problems and disasters, I began to see it as a place where people are giving their heart and soul to fins solutions and come up with ideas that make this world a better place. I began to see the world as a place for positive human action and change.
I also began to do things with mo coworkers and friends more often. This was big for me, because during that Spring I hardly went out and did anything at all. But at the ranch I began once again to have fun going out and doing things with friends, being active, and simply enjoying the company of others.
This summer taught me that our biggest enemy in life is ourselves. Not that we should hate ourselves, but at times our minds will put us into a box and say “you can’t leave this box because this box is who you are and who you always will be”. The good news for us is that this isn’t true. We are all capable of so much more than we think, and if we would simply spend some time outside our comfort zone and learn new things we would realize this.
So here I am again. The start of fall semester. A very familiar place, and yet also brand new. I have a brand new attitude and outlook on life. Instead of feeling trapped, I feel in awe about the possibilities that are out there for my life and all the ways I can make this world a better place, while also becoming a better person. I know that I am always capable of achieving more than I think, and that going above and beyond is not only possible but easy if I stay the course and continue to grow.
This isn’t a story about being physically stuck by college and finishing my degree, this is a story about being mentally stuck and finding my way out by doing something wildly outside of my comfort zone. At first I thought it was the former back when I was feeling stuck, but now I can see it was all where I was mentally. In my own head. That’s what made the difference for me and changed my life for the better. So if you are ever feeling stuck, take a look at your own mental box, and challenge those preconceptions you have about what you can and cannot do, and I promise you will find out if you try, that you are much more capable than you ever thought possible.
~ David Holmes, guest contributor
David Holmes’ Blog