I had a really rough time in high school, as do many people. I was horribly depressed, had crippling social anxiety, felt like an epic loser, and fantasized about suicide. At a time when I really should have been in therapy or on anti-depressants, I had no outlet for my building stress and no one to talk to. My free time was spent being absorbed is escapism through video games such as The Sims and in books.
Things didn’t change after graduation. The few friends I had moved away for school, my family’s house burned down, and when I wasn’t working I was still spending all of my time just trying to mentally escape how depressed I was.
One day, after we had settled into the new house my family had rented, my mother and I made one of our frequent trips to our local library. I picked up the few books I had reserved and then wandered among the shelves for a while.
I came across a shelf of books about Buddhism, meditation, and mindfulness, and picked up several books by the Dalai Lama, Alan Watts, and Thich Nhat Hanh.
I’m not sure what prompted me to check out those books. I wasn’t particularly interested in meditation or Buddhism. I didn’t know any Buddhists aside from the group of monks that would periodically come to the farmer’s market I worked at to stock up on honey. I’m not even positive I’d heard of mindfulness before. However, regardless of what prompted nineteen-year-old me to check those books out of the library, I’m forever grateful that I did.
One of the books I picked up was The Dalai Lama’s How to Practice the Way to a Meaningful Life. The book, and the others I had gotten, somehow motivated me enough to start putting their lessons into practice.
(Side note: I soon purchased my own copy, which I still have. It’s easy to see how well-loved this book has been.)
I started meditating every day and slowly became 100% happier.
I meditated daily; just for a few minutes at first, then eventually ten to fifteen minutes at a time. Eventually, I felt myself growing happier. All of my motivation reappeared. I applied to a university in the mountains and was accepted. While in college, I became more interested in Buddhist teachings, read up on philosophy and mindfulness, and continued meditating daily. While I still had some anxieties, I became much happier and allowed myself to focus on real life rather than escapism.
After my first two years at that college, I ended up dropping out and moving to Asheville, NC (I had been studying political science and it was making me feel apathetic and frustrated). I made friends who also meditated, and was in a city where many of its inhabitants spend their time focusing on spiritual pursuits. I was finally in an environment that promoted happiness and relaxation.
After a few years of meditating, I became the happiest I’ve ever been. I felt motivated to exercise and eat healthily. I went hiking every week and made a ton of great friends. My life finally felt worth living, and it was all due to a trip to the library.