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Ray Ford

In Pursuit of Happiness

Five Things I’ve Learned That Make It Easier to Roll With the Flow


Fall is a time for new beginnings.

When I first moved to Santa Barbara I was excited for the happiness it would bring me. For the cute boyfriends it would bring me. For the love it would bring me. And boy was I surprised when reality set in.

I didn’t have the smoothest transition from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. When I moved out here I didn’t have any friends or family around. With the turnaround that happens so much in Santa Barbara it’s hard to obtain a stable group of friends. Students come and go after they graduate. Young people between 25 and 35 tend to move to other cities where it’s busier. And older people pass on.

The happiness part has been a long-term battle. The cute boyfriends didn’t happen. The love part has been interesting. Only because, for the past two years, I have worked solely on loving myself, which ironically, feels so much more difficult than loving someone else. Figuring out how to love myself has been the most torturous experience I have ever been through. I guess that means I’m lucky.

But when you are stuck with Me, Myself, and I, you are forced to deal with your emotional problems, meaning your complexes, your jealousies, your anger, your envies and most horrifyingly your thoughts. Your thoughts have a funny way of instigating your complexes, kicking in your negative emotions and then perpetuating even more negative thoughts. This is the unhealthy cycle I lived in for way too long.

When you’re stuck with yourself you tend to go through stages. Loneliness, anger, sadness. Then you start to question – how do I really want to live my life? What kind of person do I really want to be? And eventually some sort of release happens and everything is ok again. At least for the time being anyway.

For me it took a conversation with a good friend and the decision to be a writer that gave me the release I had been searching for, for about six years.

I want to share with all of you what I learned about how to cope with a new environment that I was never told and had to figure out on my own. You could be a student who just moved to Santa Barbara from home and this is your first time away from your parents, family and friends. You could be dealing with the loss of someone and are getting used to living your life without that person. You could be starting a new job and are nervous about fitting in or whether or not you’re going to like it and for how long. Maybe you’re just one of those people who prefers warm months to cold ones and has a hard time coming to terms with the change in seasons. In any case, here are five things that make it easier to transition:

1. Get involved. It can take you awhile to find what is comfortable and right for you. For example, while getting involved with a club can be helpful for meeting people, if it doesn’t give you a sense of purpose or belonging, you won’t be a regular and eventually you’ll stop attending meetings. It took me two years to find KCSB radio station as the right way to get involved. So have patience with yourself.

2. Make a list of aspects you love about something. It could be a list of things you love about music, your neighborhood, someone who keeps you going, or just a general list of things you love.

For me, I have a hard time transitioning from warm to cold months. So I wrote a list of things I enjoy about fall.

Hot tea
My safe, warm apartment
Beef stew
Crocheted sweaters
Trees with colorful leaves

3. Make art. It can be a good way to dispel anxiety and focus your energy. One of the most meditative art forms in my experience is pottery. What really does it for me is throwing on the wheel, maybe because you have to concentrate really hard on not making a lopsided bowl. Some people say they are not artistically inclined but everybody has some type of art form they love to do, or used to love when they were kids but forgot about it. It could be something as simple as coloring in a coloring book. It could be drawing, painting, writing, or maybe you have some unique way of making your own artwork. I met a woman who would find plastic and Styrofoam on the beach and sew them together to make sculptures.

4. Get a pet. A cat or a dog is nice to have around if you can afford one and have the time to take care of one. They are very good for emotional support. Many people say, “I can hardly take care of myself let alone an animal right now.” But taking care of something else gives us the inspiration to take care of ourselves. It gives us a purpose. If you can’t afford a pet right now, volunteer at an animal shelter. DAWG is a great local dog adoption and welfare shelter.

5. Visit one of your favorite places. Be it a café, an art museum, or the theater, it’s healthy to take yourself somewhere that gives you pleasure. My ultimate favorite spot in Santa Barbara is Shoreline Park. Before heading over I go to Bagel Café in Isla Vista and get their seasonal pumpkin coffee, or stop at Lazy Acres and grab a cuppa Joe. To each her or his own, but giving yourself a chance to relax is a great way to regain peace of mind.

Transitioning is different for everyone. It takes a toll on you emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. If you have a good support system - great family and friends who are there for you, regularly, in person, to help you out - then you can probably count yourself lucky. Not all of us have that, and the less of a support system you have, the harder transitioning will be. At least that’s been my experience. And because everyone’s life situation is different, so will be your coping mechanisms.

The best things we can do for ourselves are to have patience, do our best to find what we love to do, and then do it. It doesn’t mean you will be instantly happy. It doesn’t mean you won’t be frustrated or angry about things anymore. It’s just a little bit of advice that, when you notice you are having a hard time, you can apply to your everyday life.

Tessa Cole has a radio program on KCSB called Making it Count.



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