Discover happiness after rock bottom

I’d like to think of myself as The Ultimate Floater, never defining myself to just one group of friends or type of personality. Whether it’s wrestling, playing the jazz piano, filmmaking or striving to become a pediatric oncologist, I honestly can’t say with certainty that I fit neatly into any box. For most of my life I never felt like I fit in; I was always an outsider, floating from one group to another. All I really wanted sometimes – or perhaps always – was to belong.

I didn’t start as a first-year student at this school. In fact, last year, I was in what might seem to be the exact opposite environment – New York City. Crowded, energetic, incessantly busy and fake. Advertised as the bustling island of hopes and dreams, this ideal was far from the truth I discovered. You could only enjoy swinging from the branches of opportunity to reality in the concrete jungle if you have a smile on your face first.

When I was approached by excited, up-and-coming actors, crew members or professors with ideas for a film, some force stopped me from saying yes. At first, it seemed like fear was holding me back, but after contemplating alone on the streets of the Third Avenue during that time of night when the excited are sleepy and the joyous have yet to wake, I soon realized, much to my chagrin, the noticeable force was sadness.

When walking the streets of New York, I often felt alone. With no enclosed campus where I could continuously run into classmates, it became hard to find friends and people I could trust. With no trusting relationships, how could anything get done? I fell out of love with film briefly without a strong network to help crew, edit, produce and write films with me.

Sometimes you just can’t smile. It took me my entire first semester at NYU to realize that’s completely okay – it’s okay to be unhappy.

Here in Coral Gables, the opposite environment shone as bright as Miami’s sun. All my friends are caring, real, honest, helpful and kind. I remember one night being able to think to myself, “I can’t believe I’m actually happy.”

Life isn’t fair – my Jewish grandma was always right about that. Yet, she was also right about being candid and talking about real feelings, not fake ones. Sometimes, you have to have moments when you feel your life turning downward until you reach a bleak rock bottom, to the point where you’ve almost lost all sense of optimism and hope, in order to see the path to happiness. But as long as you keep moving, as long as you have hope and as long as you realize that life is precious and can be taken away too easily and too soon, you will finally fully realize that happiness is possible after going through even the worst of times: my “Inverse Checkpoint” theorem. Life doesn’t go straight, just forward.

I am far too fortunate for what has happened to me at the U these last two semesters. After meeting friends from multiple types of majors, personalities and lifestyles, I never thought I’d ever consider myself this happy. So this is a thanks to all those who care, because I care about you more than any column could express. This is also for the ones who need a little support in finding happiness. As my Grandma Carol said, after you’ve hit your bottom, the first step on the path to happiness is easy: shut up and start talking.

Danny Urkov is a sophomore majoring in biology and motion pictures.