The February Depression


Is it just me or does anyone else think February is the most depressing time of the year?  I’ve felt this way for many years & I think there are several logical reasons for it.  By the time February rolls around winter weather has been solidly in place for a good 3-4 months, depending on the climate where you live.  Even the hardiest of us get tired of the wind & cold after a while.  I don’t know about y’all but the red dry skin on my face that is now actually quite painful is begging for a dose of spring warmth & sunshine ANY TIME NOW.  (And I consider the winter here to be quite mild compared to what I got used to while living in the mountains during college.)  Additionally winter is usually a time in which most people do not take vacations or do anything all that exciting & adventurous, unless of course you’re into winter sports like skiing & snowboarding, which I most definitely am not.  Furthermore, by the time February comes around, the excitement of Christmas & New Year’s has long since passed while the advent of spring still seems much too far away.  All in all, it’s a pretty bleak month.  And I don’t know about those of you reading this, but I am the type who feels GUILTY for being saddened by all of this, even though I realize it’s perfectly normal to feel a little “down about life” at this time of year.  Argh.

Another theme that’s been crossing my mind a lot lately is the feeling that everyone else’s life is more exciting than mine.  Is it just me or does anyone else feel this way?  I’m quite sure I’m not alone on this one.  As much as I hate myself for doing this, I often find myself comparing my lifestyle to my friends & acquaintances, particularly those who are about the same age as me.  The trouble I run into is that on the one hand the average person my age in my hometown has kids (whether married or not) & thus leads a very different lifestyle than I do.  A fair amount of folks my age back home are married but plenty aren’t also.  Some own houses, some don’t.  On the other hand the average person my age here in a more urban environment (granted almost anything is more urban than my hometown) lives in an apartment, either with a significant other or with friends or maybe even alone; goes to bars frequently; travels as much as they can afford; & generally still leads what I think of as a more “college lifestyle.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with either lifestyle & I am not trying to pass judgment on anyone here.  I’m just saying that as a 25 year-old nurse, wife, homeowner, & NON-parent I sometimes feel like I am a bit out of place in life, kind of caught between two worlds so to speak.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about my station in life.  I love being married to my husband, owning a home, having a dog, & working as a nurse.  And I love the freedom of not having kids yet.  I don’t want to go to bars every week, but I can still do that on the rare occasions I actually want to.  My husband & I can go out to eat alone or with friends as often as we please with no worries about finding a baby-sitter or spending our child’s future college fund.  It’s easy for me to look back on college with great fondness because I do have a ton of wonderful memories from that time, but in the golden light of nostalgia it’s easy to forget the stress that came along with that time in my life (mountains of homework, the constant stream of tests & clinicals, lack of money, etc).  The freedom I have now is truly without comparison to any other point in my life.  And it’s amazing.

And yet I still find myself feeling like my life is boring.  It’s not that I necessarily think it’s boring; it’s just that in comparison to my peers, I feel like my life must be awfully dull.  My husband travels for his job several times a year, often to exotic locations like Hawaii, & many of my friends my age take fairly frequent trips & vacations just for fun.  I on the other hand have to FORCE myself to actually take a vacation & travel somewhere.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy traveling.  I do.  It’s just that the idea of buying a plane ticket & planning out an entire trip stresses me the hell out.  I know; that is so pathetic.  You see why I say I feel boring?  But I can’t help it.  It’s just the way I am.   As much as I love trips to the mountains to hike or days at the beach, at my core my favorite place to be is at home with my husband & puppy.  Magazines & therapists everywhere say that one of the best ways to reignite the romance in your marriage or relationship is to go out of town with your partner.  Not so for me.  A weekend at home with my husband is the most romantic thing I can think of.  I know.  Am I 80 years old or what?  But I think the reasoning behind that is that to me romance springs out of comfort & home is where I’m most comfortable . . . So there you go.  (I suppose the advantage to this is that I can have romantic weekends at home almost every weekend of the year which is definitely fun.)

I realize the real solution here is to stop comparing my life to my peers.  Yet I also know it’s human nature to do so & trying to stop it is probably futile.  I guess what I need to realize is that I am happy with my life & that’s all that matters.  If my life doesn’t square with what the average person my age is doing here or in my hometown or anywhere, who cares?  It’s MY life after all.  And the same is true for anyone reading this.  I also know that as soon as spring rolls around, a lot of the lingering depression that seems to slowly sink in along with the winter will quickly alleviate.  I find this happens every spring.  As soon as it starts getting a little warmer, the days get a little longer, & the flowers start blooming I almost instantly feel a significant lift in my spirits.  And every year I think “Wow, I didn’t realize how bad I’d been feeling,” probably because the “February depression” is such a gradual thing that I hardly realize it’s happened until it’s gone.  For some reason this year I seem a bit more aware of it; perhaps this is a sign that my mental health has actually improved because I’m more in tune with myself, so to speak.

In any case, here’s to spring & planning some mini-vacations & weekend getaways, if not full-out vacations.  After all, one of the most rewarding things we can do in life is to step outside our comfort zones & do the things that scare us.

And here’s to continuing to remind myself that life isn’t a competition; it’s a journey.  And just because my journey looks a little different than someone else’s doesn’t mean either of us is wrong.

Life Isn’t Fair So Your Choices Better Be Good


Today’s blog post might rub some people the wrong way but I hope you’ll understand as you read it that this comes from a place of compassion & concern for my fellow man.  (Yes, I consider myself a feminist but I truly don’t see anything wrong with using masculine pronouns when referring to all of humanity because frankly it just sounds better.)  Something I’ve been thinking about a lot this year is the impact of choices on our lives.  A lot has changed in my life in the past two years.  For example, I’ve graduated from college, become a nurse, gotten married, and moved to a new state, and in just the past nine months I’ve bought a house, a puppy, and a very nice used car and started serving as a preceptor and a charge nurse at work.  These are, in my mind, all good changes but change is inevitably difficult at times and, at least for me, leads to a lot of introspection and general analysis of life.  In the past year such introspection and analysis have continually landed me on the same theme: the importance of making good choices in life and the consequences that arise when we fail to make good choices.

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Let me first say that I am fully aware that what I consider to be good choices and what someone else considers to be good choices may be completely different.  And with very few exceptions I am totally okay with that.  But if there is one thing I can safely say I know to be true in life, it is that we are each responsible for our own lives and the choices we make, and said choices are the greatest determinant of our own happiness and success.  I know that I have accomplished a lot for someone my age and I am very much aware of the fact that I have a lot of people to thank for helping me along the way to where I am now.  But I also realize that all the help in the world would have been useless if I hadn’t also made my own good choices (getting good grades in high school which allowed me to apply for and obtain a scholarship to college, seeking out internships and jobs in college that helped me obtain a good job after graduation, etc, etc, you get the point).  Please understand that I am not trying to brag or say that I am more successful or better than anyone else.  I am well aware that my own idea of success and happiness does not apply to everyone and vice versa.  I am just saying that when I think about the miserable situations I see so many people in, including many my own age, I can’t help but notice that all (or at least most) of these people have made a series of bad choices throughout their lives.  Let me further explain so I hopefully don’t sound like one of those god-awful judgmental pricks that annoy me so much.

I’m talking about the people who are working dead-end jobs with no hope of advancement who can barely pay their bills (or can’t pay them), who are in miserable relationships with people who treat them like trash, etc, etc; I think you catch my drift.  These people are usually the ones who dropped out of high school (and not because they had to take care of a dying relative or something like that), got pregnant in high school or maybe shortly thereafter and often with someone they did not exactly have a solid relationship with, or perhaps graduated from high school but with such poor grades that college or even technical school was never an option.  These folks probably did not think about the future beyond tomorrow and never exactly planned out a career or any sort of goals for their lives.  The homeless are another good example.  I have always had a special place in my heart for the homeless for some reason but when I look at most of the homeless people I’ve met or known about (I did a clinical rotation with the homeless in nursing school and actually got the privilege of talking to a lot of homeless folks) I’ve noticed again the same pattern: bad choices.  For some it was drugs, for some it was gambling, for some it was having too many children whom they couldn’t afford to support, and the list goes on and on.  Even many of my patients at work whose lives are miserable due to disease are often in the positions they’re in largely because of poor choices they’ve made: failing to control diseases that could be controlled or even eradicated through proper diet & exercise, etc, etc.  It’s hard to watch because you know that these people could have had better outcomes if they’d made better choices.  It’s a very complicated subject, but it’s the truth nonetheless.

Let me be clear here: BY NO MEANS do I think we should not be compassionate or helpful to those who have made poor choices.  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  My point is that the greatest lesson I hope to teach my future children is that they better have their act together from day one because life is not fair.  For example, lots of people have unprotected sex in high school.  But not everyone ends up with some disgusting STI or gets pregnant.  But some do.  AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE.  Lots of people drive drunk and never hurt anyone.  But others do.  AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE.  Lots of people smoke cigarettes their whole lives and never get lung cancer or COPD.  But many do.  AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE.  I think you can see my point.  If there’s anything I know about life it’s that it isn’t fair.  Some people make one or two bad choices and their whole lives crumble around them.  Others make a lot of bad choices and don’t seem to suffer as much.  But in my limited experience those I’ve seen consistently make good choices have ALWAYS been better off because of it.

So if/when I have kids someday, these are the things I’m going to teach them:

Stay in school.  Get good grades.  Work hard at everything you do.  When you get a job, be the best because otherwise you will just be a drone like everyone else.  Make yourself stand out.  Don’t be afraid to reach for the stars.  Go to college or vocational school and plan a career where you can both support yourself and be happy.  Never have unprotected sex with anyone unless you are 100% ready to be a parent RIGHT NOW.  Be kind to everyone because you never know what battles others are fighting that you know nothing about.  Karma is real and whatever choices you make, good or bad, they WILL catch up with you sooner or later, and you better be prepared for the outcomes of your decisions.  I will teach them all these things because I will love them and want the best for them, just as my parents did for me.

Perhaps I will never become a parent (who knows), but nonetheless I will strive to teach these things to my nieces and nephews, my patients, and anyone else who is willing to listen.  Because I care.  As much as the world sometimes makes me feel cynical and cold, I do love people.  Life is crazy.  People are crazy.  But I love this life that I’ve made for myself (with the help of some great friends and family) and I want others to be able to share in the kind of happiness I’ve found.  I don’t mean that everyone needs to have my exact lifestyle, education, or career.  I just wish for everyone to find that passion for life and learning that I’ve found.  I like to think it’s contagious, and I hope that I can spread it around just through this blog post if nothing else.

I hope this post hasn’t come across as arrogant or rude.  That’s not how I meant it at all.  I just wanted to share the idea that choices really are important in our lives, and especially with a new year just around the corner it’s something I think we all need to take to heart.  I know that many people are great testaments to the fact that sometimes a bad decision can actually end up being a good thing (lots of teen moms would agree with this).  And there is a lot of truth in that too.  And not every person who makes all good decisions is necessarily going to be completely happy.  Again, everyone’s idea of happiness and success is different.  And that’s ok.  We each must find our own barometer for happiness and success, and then make good choices that align with that.  Otherwise we are just drifting along in life with no paddle to steer us toward any goals, hopes, or dreams.  And I can’t think of much sadder than that.

A Student of Life


Essentially my entire memorable life I have thought of myself principally as a student. Being a student is what I have always been good at. I was one of those really weird kids who actually enjoyed school & not just the part about seeing friends or playing kickball in gym class. Actually, I usually hated gym class unless I got lucky & had some good friends to suffer through it with me. But that’s a side note. I actually really liked going to class, reading my textbooks, & sometimes even writing papers.  My point is I have always loved learning. It’s what inspires me & feeds my insatiable curiosity about life.

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So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that since graduating from college & no longer officially being a student I often find myself feeling a bit adrift in life. Of late I see more & more of my friends going back to school including many of my nursing school classmates. When I see these things I hate to admit it but I am quite jealous for I fear that I am falling behind. After all I graduated at the top of my class in both high school & college, so I always thought I would be the first person (or one of the first I should say) to go back to school for an advanced degree.  After all I went to nursing school with the sole intention of becoming an NP, preferably within five to ten years of graduating. Well, here I am two years into my nursing career & I find that the last thing I want to do right now is go back to school & that I have no idea if becoming an NP is what I actually want. Yes, bedside nursing is far from the perfect world that nursing school tries to portray, but I am pleasantly surprised to find that I really do love this career, more than I actually I anticipated I would. And I am really quite good at it! As much as I often doubt myself, deep down I know I’m a great nurse. I wouldn’t be serving as a charge nurse and a preceptor if I weren’t.  I don’t want to be a bedside nurse forever but I don’t want a “desk” nursing job either, so basically I have no idea where my career is going which is both scary & refreshing.  Is it even normal to think about such things at 24?

I like to think that since I am no longer an official student at any school/university, I am now a student of life. And I guess what life is teaching me right now is that life isn’t a competition, at least not with anyone other than yourself. And if in my heart I don’t feel this is the right time for me to go back to school, then it isn’t the right time. And it’s ok. Yes, I still may feel a twinge of regret when I see colleagues or friends “advancing” beyond me in their careers, but no, I do not have to wallow in guilt over feeling that way. So many people have told me “Go back to school before you have kids. Do it as soon as you can!” In so many ways I know that would be the easier path, & yet I find myself day dreaming much more often about becoming a mom than about becoming an NP. This is quite jarring for me because even as a kid I always fancied myself as more of a “career woman” who might eventually “settle down into mommyhood.” Indeed it’s only in the past year that I have started truly desiring to have children at all. And it’s still a pretty far-off wish. I know I’m not ready right now, & yet the idea of going back to school even in the next few years strikes fear in my heart. That sounds ridiculous in light of how much I really do love learning. But it’s the truth. I spent so many years of my life devoting myself so fully to school & I have no regrets over that (well, no serious ones). Thus I am inclined to wonder if perhaps my mind is just seeking a different path for a while. So I am writing this as a way of trying to make peace with myself over the idea that “just” being a student of life for a few (or maybe even a lot) more years is more than adequate.

I’m a big believer in technology & the ways that it enriches our lives. For example, one of my dearest friends lives in England & if it weren’t for the Internet we would not even know each other at all, much less communicate on an almost daily basis. But the downside to modern-day technology is that things like Facebook & Pinterest (the latter of which I refuse to join for this very reason) make it very easy for us to get caught up in comparing our lives with everyone else, everything from our hair & clothes to our homes, careers, & children. Such comparisons inevitably lead to depression, anxiety, or general dissatisfaction with our own lives. It’s the rat race on steroids. I’m not suggesting we need to forgo these technologies in order to be satisfied with our own lives. But I do have to remind myself often that the only person whose opinion of my life truly counts at the end of the day is ME. And I cannot base my life decisions on what other people are doing or what is right for them at a certain point in their life.

When I think back on all of the major decisions in my life (where to go to college, getting married, applying for & accepting jobs, buying our house, etc), I’ve always had a certain inexplicable sense of just knowing that I was making the right choice at the right time. I wish I could explain it scientifically but I can’t. With that in mind I am slowly learning to rest in the knowledge that when I’m ready to go back to school I’ll just know. And when I’m ready to become a mom I’ll just know. And it doesn’t really matter in what order those things happen for one of the greatest lessons I have learned as a student of life is this: There is no one right path for everyone. And that is what makes life so beautiful. As my Psychology 101 professor once said “Some things in life are not good or bad, better or worse. Only different.”

The Seasons of Life


Today I went to the pool for what may very well be the last time this summer. I’m still calling it summer because technically it is & since I’m no longer in school I never feel like it’s truly fall until late September when the weather actually begins to cool down & the leaves start to change colors (although as I discovered last year the leaves in Raleigh don’t really start changing till October). There is always a part of me that feels sad whenever I go swimming for the last time each summer. As a kid I thought swimming was the ultimate thing to do in the summer & I just couldn’t stand to be around a lake or pool or any body of water & not be in it as much as possible. I’ll admit that as an adult most of my time spent at the pool is now spent reading BY the pool, not actually in the water, but I always make time to get in the water at least a little while to cool off & just enjoy the feeling of the water around me. It really is a magical feeling that brings back a lot of good childhood memories.

Fall leaves at RU, October 2009

Fall leaves at RU, October 2009

I love all four seasons of the year, each one for different reasons. But if I had to choose I would say fall is my favorite, especially now that I’m out of school & can really enjoy fall for all the fun things it brings instead of just associating it with the beginning of another school year. (Not that I hated school, in fact in many ways I loved it & miss it dearly, but nonetheless I do feel like I enjoy fall more now that I’m out of school.) I’ve often heard people say they would love to live in Florida or Southern California or some place like that where it feels like spring & summer all year. Even as a kid I never thought that sounded too spectacular because I have always loved all four seasons & can’t imagine life without them. To me the seasons have so much to teach us about the seasons of life & the good & bad things that each of those seasons brings.

One of the things that has made life after college somewhat confusing for me is that I no longer really feel like I have something specific that I’m working toward. I’ve always been a very goal-oriented person so being in school was very good for me because I always felt like I had something to work toward. I could focus on small goals like acing my math test at the end of the week or larger goals like graduating from college & starting my nursing career. Either way I always felt like I had an end-goal in mind. In a way the freedom of no longer being in school is fabulous & I obviously really enjoy it because I’m no longer in a rush to go back to school like I always thought I would be. Yet at the same time I often feel like I’m just drifting around, not sure on what to focus my enthusiasm & hopes for the future.

What I am slowly learning though is that drifting isn’t so bad. There is nothing wrong with having goals in life; indeed I’m a big believer in having goals because in aiming to achieve them we so often push ourselves to bigger & better things than we ever imagined. However, I am also learning that it’s ok to just relax & enjoy the seasons of life as they come. As a kid I was always in such a hurry to grow up. I just wanted to be an adult so I could have the freedom & respect that adulthood provides. I am very happy to say that adulthood hasn’t disappointed me yet & I’ve never once looked back on childhood with any real nostalgia. If that sounds depressing, I promise you it isn’t. What I find depressing is the people who look back on high school as “the good old days.” That just screams to me that they are disappointed with their current life. I don’t ever want to look back on any part of my life as the best time. I want every season of my life to be the best season, & I truly believe it can be if I continue to strive to enjoy every moment of my life as it comes without focusing too much on the past or on the future. I’ve read a lot of books (fiction) & seen a lot of movies whose message is to “live in the moment” & I am slowly learning how important that really is. It is of course necessary to remember the past so that we can learn from ours & others’ mistakes. And it’s also necessary to have a plan in place for the future. For example, the only reason I have a good career, a wonderful husband, & a house at a fairly young age is because as a teenager I thought ahead to the kind of future I wanted & made good decisions so I could get there.

However, in a world that feels rushed 24/7, I find it increasingly important to focus on enjoying every season of life as it comes. By season I mean both the literal seasons of winter, spring, summer, & fall as well as the metaphorical seasons of college, young adulthood, parenthood, etc. It’s so easy for me as a young married woman with a good career to feel like I have to think ahead to becoming a mom or going back to school or just achieving “the next big thing” in life. There is of course nothing wrong with any of those things, but I am learning to find peace in just enjoying this stage of my life. I am also learning that the more I truly enjoy each stage of life as it comes I the less I look back on the past with regret. Yes, I miss college quite often, mostly because I miss seeing my friends on a daily basis, but I also realize that I’m a different person now & that stage of life no longer suits me. I enjoyed my college days to the fullest & thus I can look back on them with a smile knowing I have no regrets.

I’ve been seeing lots of posts on Facebook this week from people who can’t wait for fall to really get here. But today I’ve decided to enjoy the last few days or weeks of summer & when fall gets here I’ll greet it with loving arms. But until then I’m going to bask in the glorious sunshine. So often I also see my friends posting on Facebook about going back to school or having babies, & I sometimes feel the need to “catch up” lest I should “fall behind” in life. And as some of you may know I have been thinking a lot about becoming a mom lately, not any time soon but in the next couple of years. This is a huge step for me since just a year or two ago I was quite convinced I would never want to have children. But for right now I’ve decided to just enjoy this stage of life to the fullest while it lasts. When else in my life am I ever going to have the freedoms that I have right now coupled with the enthusiasm & energy of youth? The answer is never. Someday I’ll be a mom & someday I’ll go back to school, but I think I’ll enjoy both all the more because I didn’t rush into them.

So my challenge to you today is to enjoy whatever stage of life in you’re in right now. When you find yourself saying “I just can’t wait for this or that to happen,” take a deep breath & remember that just like the seasons of the year, no season of life lasts forever & they all have their own unique treasures.