Stop and Look: Is This The Life You Want?

Author: Val Berenshtein

Last weekend…

I sat in the library almost all day. Studying for three exams, I did my colored notes, read through my textbooks, perused the Power Point slides. On and on and on, I continued to study and write, hoping I was retaining an amount of information that far superseded any amount I had had to learn to date. I studied until my brain began to shut down, until I could no longer sit still.

Around 6 PM, I felt a deep jolt in my body. It was screaming at me to get out, to go outside, to move. I was very surprised at this feeling. I had been taking periodic breaks throughout my studying and thought that they were enough to power me through.

Yet, the jolt tugged on my body – tugged to the point where I was scared, my heart was racing, my body was shaking. I ran out of the library and ran far from my college campus. It was only when I slowed down did I realize I may have experienced an anxiety attack or some form of panic that I had never experienced before.

As someone who has been afflicted by mental illness…

for the past five years, I was confused by this type of anxiety. I thought that I had experienced all forms and variations of it, especially as I now undergo my second recovery from anorexia nervosa and restrictive eating disorders.

Yet, there it was. A sickening jolt in my body that made me lose my ground.

I ran out of the library. I ran off of campus. I ran away from my school until I eventually forced myself to slow down, to beckon my strides to a walk. From there, I began to walk. And, I walked and walked. I reached a point when I no longer recognized the streets, when the sky was no longer lit with the sun’s setting rays. I reached a point where street lamps began to glow and houses extended warmth from within.

I cannot recall…

how I made it back to campus – from which direction I came from and from which I returned. But, eventually, I was back, and as I was about to head back to library, where all my work laid in wait, I felt another jolt – this one, however, softer than the other.

With the warm breeze blowing back on my braided hair and the sky’s darkness illuminating an adaptable peace, I passed a church on campus with a wide, grassy area overlooking a little shopping area and scintillating a speck of Atlanta in the distance.

My jolt pushed me to go to the grass, to lie down, and to just stop. To stop. To stop my running mind. To stop my moving feet. To stop my mind from dwelling on anxiety, depression, my recovery and so forth.

I listened to my jolt. I went to lie on the grass and look at the navy-blue sky.

And, right then…

I asked myself, what the hell have I been doing? What has become of my life? What has become of myself? Why am I living a life I neither want nor enjoy?

These questions, amongst others, arose in my mind as I stared at the sky. I realized in these moments that I really do not know what my life has come to and what I am doing.

I realized that I do not like what is going on, and not because I am recovering from restrictive eating disorders or because I have had mental health problems for years. Rather, I do not like that I am not living a complete and happy life and that I cannot quite put my finger on what is missing.

Indeed, I am only nineteen-years-old…

and I have years ahead of me. I have years of exploration, of potential adventure, of work, of building and discovering life.

But, here is the thing: that is not good enough for me.

While I can tell myself that the answers will come to me with time, I do not want that. I want to live every, single day discovering more about myself, more about my life, more about the happiness I know I deserve. I want to put aside the useless, completely unnecessary stress and anxiety of college and my work and, instead, focus on doing what I want to do, knowing that no amount of schooling, no grade point average, no acquired title or prestige will define the human being that I am today and will be tomorrow.

Ultimately, I am the only person in charge of designing the life I want. And, I am tired – no, perhaps, I am even exhausted – of wasting my life on stress, anxiety, my mental illnesses, and my struggles. I do not deserve to live like this. Nobody deserves to live like this.

I lied in the grass and pondered. Although no answers came to the questions that I asked myself, I did identify that what my life is today is not the life I want for myself. And, for now, that is enough for me. For now, that has given me the fuel to reshape my thoughts and goals and to strive for more – whatever that more really means.

If you are in similar shoes as me…

– or even if you are not -, I encourage you, as an incredible, strong and full-of-potential human being, to look at your life and ask yourself if it is shaping out to be what you want it to be.

Are you the happiest you can be?

Is your time being spent on the things and people you care about most and enjoy?

Take a moment to stop or, at least, to slow down. Let your mind come to peace and your heart tell you what it needs. Neither of these forces will ever lead you astray.

-Val Berenshtein


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