It’s been almost two years since I hit Publish on my first blog post. I’ve learned so much from writing these blogs and listening to people’s stories. For me, I have a tough time opening up verbally about what goes on in my head. So sometimes I just sit down and start typing and before I know it, I’ve written an entire blog. I hope you’ve gotten as much out of my writing as I have from just listening/reading the responses. Like I’m sure it has for everyone else, the last two years have been full of ups and downs. And I’m sure these last six months have felt like years as well. I think over the first couple of months of this blog, and really into the first year, my main focus was just being aware of my mental health struggle. Noticing how I was struggling, realizing I wasn’t alone in my struggle, and trying to let people in. As I’ve progressed, I took a step back to see how that’s kind of shifted over the second year. I’ve really tried to focus on changing my perspective in life, both on a daily level and larger level. With that, I’ve worked to become more conscious of practicing gratitude and not letting things be taken for granted. It’s also caused me to fight with the realization that some things are just out of my control.

When I started thinking about perspective and control, I immediately turned my mind to sports. I first thought about football. Playing for 16 years, time and time again I heard the mantra of “Next Play”. Focus on the next play. It doesn’t matter what happened on the last play, on the last drive, or in the last quarter, you need to focus on making the next play. Because in football, and sports in general, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re not going to make every catch, or every throw, or every tackle. The ref isn’t going to make all of the right calls for your team. Mistakes and struggles are going to happen. The key is to not let those past mistakes affect the next play. Don’t let the frustration from a missed call cause you to miss an opportunity when it presents itself later. Or don’t let a previously negative play change your outlook on the next play or the next quarter.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve really tried to work on having a more positive outlook on things. Or at least, a non-negative outlook. Growing up I think I was always kind of a negative person. And not negative in the sense that I thought everything was awful, but more in the sense that I expected things to go poorly. I 100% understand what it was I was doing. It was a defense mechanism. Expecting things to turn out bad, or other struggles to happen, so then I’m not surprised or let down if they do. But I think a lot of times we fall into confirmation bias. That is, we try to use specific things that happen in our life to prove the thing we already assume is true. So when we have this negative mindset, even though it may ease the hurt if we don’t get our hopes us, I also think it makes us recognize these occurrences far more than positive one. So maybe on a work week, the first four days have beautiful weather and no traffic, but the fifth day there’s construction causing backed up traffic. And then the response is, “See! Things always go bad for me. I can’t catch a break.” Yet we ignore/don’t praise the numerous times we did catch a break. And then that traffic frustration will then magnify the struggle you may have later that day, finally leaving you with a poor outlook on what tomorrow will bring. And this then causes this snowball effect where we are constantly confirming that feeling that nothing will go right or that you’ll always struggle. That mindset then seeps into the next hour or the next day or the next week. Because life is full of ups and downs. But I found myself always making note when I felt like I was at the bottom, but not really taking time to admire the tops.

One of the times that life has knocked me down, was when my grandma passed away. I was a sophomore in college at the time playing football and as far as I knew she was going to be coming to my game that Saturday. But she never showed. I came off the field after that game to find out she had passed away overnight. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to hear. The last time I saw her was the week before at the previous game. I had torn my hamstring my freshman year of college, so I missed my entire first season and that game was really my first chance back playing at the college level. I remember there was a catch that I should have made in one of my first/few opportunities and I didn’t make the play. And I remember talking with her after the game and being really disappointed in myself. I had felt like I had let people, and myself, down. She comforted me and told me she thought I played amazing anyway, like the perfect grandma she was. The next day we had workouts and film so I was busy most of the day, but when I got back to my locker I had a long text from my grandma. The main theme of that message was just that she felt bad because it seemed like nothing was going right. She had mentioned that I was disappointed in my game the day before and that the browns had just blown a game they should have won. She ended the text by encouraging me that tough times won’t last, things will get better and just to stay positive. She then concluded by just saying, “Sometimes, sh!t happens”. If you knew my grandma, you’d know that that ending was so perfectly her.

I think a lot of people are struggling right now. And there are a lot of things going on in the world that have probably caused people to get knocked down a time or two. The most difficult part about writing this blog is I don’t want people to think I am just disregarding their struggles and saying, “it happened, move on”. Because I think it is really important to allow yourself to feel however it is life makes you feel. It’s okay to be mad, or upset, or sad, or hurt, or think life is unfair when things happen. You don’t always have to act like you’re holding it together. And if you’re hurting right now, I’m sure you probably don’t want to hear the “tomorrow is a new day” speech. Frankly, after my grandma passed away, if someone were to say,“Ya know, sometimes these things happen. But tomorrow is a new day”, I probably wouldn’t have responded to fondly to that. So I understand if you’re in that place and don’t necessarily want to listen. Because the fact is, there’s nothing that is going to happen tomorrow or the next day that’s going to take away the pain I felt after that game. But the thing I’ve learned and really tried to work on, is that it doesn’t mean there won’t still be good things happening tomorrow. Even though you may have really struggled yesterday, or this morning, or even ten minutes ago, doesn’t mean there won’t be beauty in tomorrow, or this afternoon, or even right now. And I just don’t want you to miss it. I want you to be able to see it. I want myself to be able to see it. Because sometimes, whether it’s something larger like the death of a family member or something smaller like bad traffic, these struggles can blind us and cause us to disregard the beautiful moments that come after. And it then leads us to believe that nothing good can/will happen. A vicious cycle.

So let me bring this full circle with the football analogy and the story about my grandma. A couple weeks ago, on a Sunday night, I sat down to start writing the beginning of this blog, talking about focusing on the next play in football and my grandma. I kind of knew where I was going to take the rest of the blog, but I just had some uncertainty about whether to post it. I was worried about coming across as insensitive to people’s struggles by advocating for them to just keep being positive, as if that’s some easy task. So I stopped writing the blog for the week. On that Friday I went to my dad’s game at Orange High School. My grandma worked at Orange for forever and was synonymous with Orange. Any time I pull into the stadium, I immediately think of her. The start of that game did not go well at all for Chagrin. It was a handful of bad breaks, calls that seemed to not go their way, and overall not the best performance of their season. Through the 3rd quarter, it just seemed like it wasn’t their day. But they kept playing. And they kept fighting. And toward the end of the game, there was a couple of plays that did end up going their way and they were able to force overtime. Chagrin then stopped Orange on fourth down and won the game. As the players rushed the field in pure joy, I immediately started thinking of my grandma. I’ll fully admit I’m biased and probably searching for something, so it’s okay if you think it’s all just a coincidence. But walking off the field that night, you’ll never convince me that it wasn’t something more. You’ll never convince me that it wasn’t my grandma both re-iterating her message to me, but also letting me know that someone out there needed to hear this. Telling me I needed to finish this blog. And if it’s you that’s struggling, she wanted me to make sure that you saw this. That sometimes things happen and don’t go your way. But no matter what happened on the last play, you just have to give everything you can into the next one. No matter how frustrating, or unfair, or disappointing that last play was, there unfortunately isn’t anything you can do to change that outcome. All you can do is focus on doing your best on the next one. And no matter what happened yesterday, tomorrow is a new day.

After reflecting on the last two years, I think one of the biggest things I’ve wanted out of this blog was to just try to get you to believe. Try to get myself to believe. That even though the last hour may have been bad, the next one can be better. Even though yesterday may have been bad, tomorrow can be better. Even though the last week, last month, maybe even the last year, have been bad. Tomorrow can be better. Because sometimes life can be difficult. Like my grandma said, “Sh!t happens”. And I think everyone has those moments where they lay their head down at night and think, “today was a rough day”. It happens to everyone. But I think the heartbreaking thing, is the person that lays down after a tough day and genuinely believes, “I’m not sure how tomorrow will ever be better”. And I wish I had the magic answer to how to give you that sense of hope. Maybe it’s belief in a higher power or reaching out to family/friends or letting someone in to help. But I write these blogs so that person that’s in that situation can realize that they’re not alone. To understand, while it’s not enjoyable, it’s okay to not be okay and need help. You’re not broken.

I’m not going to sit hear and act like I know everything or know what you’re specifically going through. But if you want my advice, I’ll give you something I’ve really tried to work on when I am struggling the most:

Because I think we all have a tendency to both notice the devastatingly bad struggles and the minor incoveniences. But I think sometimes we tend to only praise the “significant” positive moments. Sometimes beautiful things can seem so small or inconsequential, that we don’t take a step back to appreciate them. Maybe it’s a great dinner with a friend or family. Maybe it’s beautiful weather on a drive. Maybe it’s going on a really nice walk with a friend. Or maybe it’s just a damn good cup of coffee. Allow yourself to celebrate those moments. Let yourself just soak those in and smile instead of disregarding them because of other struggles. I know that’s easier said than done. Because no, that cup of coffee won’t make that pain you’ve been feeling go away. And that dinner or beautiful weather will not suddenly relieve the anxiety or depression you’ve been experiencing for the last couple of months. But it allows yourself to notice that good things can and will still happen for you. It helps disprove this story we’ve told ourselves that nothing will get better. And then when you lay down at night, yes you may still hurt inside from a loss you’ve experienced or the depression you’ve been battling through. But you’ve now given yourself evidence that even in perhaps your darkest time, you still found a way to smile. While the pain may not subside overnight, I believe that evidence helps to build one of the most powerful things we can have if we’re struggling. Hope. Hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

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