STEP Experience- Destin

In my STEP Signature Project, I chose to enhance my outlook on life through my day-to-day struggles with depression. I traveled to Destin, Florida where my project proceeded to included travelling to wildlife preserves, beaches, the city, and relaxing at “home.” For a week I utilized journalism and photography to display my daily activities and explorations. These explorations and the usage of photography allowed for me to grow in my confidence, independence and sense of responsibility. I was able to interact with many locals and also visitors who influenced my STEP experience in various different ways.

My outlook on life since this trip has had an exponential change. I very often used to look upon the negative things in life and dwell upon them for extended periods of time. While in Destin I came to realize how simple life really can be. I took the time each day to simply list the things that I was grateful for. I did not prompt myself to write this at a specific time each day but rather when I felt the time was right. Some of these times included moments where I was relaxed and very buoyant with life; others when I was very frustrated with life and more pessimistic than normal. I found that taking the time when feeling down and upset allowed me to decipher how much the event that was frustrating me really matter in the grand scheme. This trip allowed me to change how I view hardships in my life and allowed for me to think about how I would handle what life throws at me.

Being on my own allowed for me to reflect upon my current struggles with anxiety and depression. For the longest time now, I have dealt with depression that can be described as high-functioning depression. I live a very normal life in which not anyone would suspect me of having depression. I go to class, go to work, study, and have friends and relationships, and good family. My depression runs more deep, and is rarely displayed through interactions with anyone. I chose to pour myself into other things in order to avoid the lingering thoughts and feelings that otherwise would consume my days. Since, around 15 I have been on medication and am very open about it because of the amazing affect it has had on my life. I have been able to regain much self-confidence and positively enhance my home, school, and relationships with others. Throughout my trip to Destin I was able to dig deeper into my thoughts and try to figure out how to cope with them better. I realized that a lot of the lingering thought that I experience are misconstrued thoughts that are meant to belittle and put myself down. This trip allowed me to rebuild my self-confidence and to regain the positive strength needed to live a healthier life. Now, I still struggle but it is more manageable and easier to handle with the tricks and sayings that I developed upon my STEP experience.

Throughout the duration of my trip I visited a few wildlife preservations and spent time taking photographs of the land and wildlife. I was able to spend time relaxing and not stressing over anything. It was very rejuvenating to be surrounded by nothing but nature after having spent such a long time in the city. I was able to come across a few birds and insects while exploring and I never realized until this point how hard it is to capture a picture of an animal. They live in their own world and go about their business completely ignoring those around them. I thought about how often humans go about their lives the same. We put our blinders up and focus on ourselves and not those around us. I took this in to consideration when dealing with my depression. Numerous times I have thought excessively about the struggles I am experiencing and blocked out the people who care about me. I now realize that it is okay to feel this way but it is not okay to allow it to control me. I should not let my depression put up blinders in my life and keep me from being myself, reaching my goals, and living a happy life.

Another experience that occurred when I went to dinner the first night I was in Destin. When I went to dinner that night the service, food and restaurant were all under poor conditions. I left the restaurant feeling frustrated and mad that I had just wasted my money on something so low in quality. After getting home, I sat down and realized though that the manager there had seemed very new. He had apologized multiple times to me, checked back on me and even altered my payment. He genuinely was trying his hardest and I feel now that I should not have been so judgmental.  My small experience of frustration is minuscule in relation to my life. In contrast, he most likely has to deal with this interaction with customers on the daily and is in the processes of fixing the restaurant. Many of us are so quick to judge the struggles of others because we are so busy absorbing ourselves in our own burdens and struggles. From this negative dinner experience I was able to see the light in the situation. I was not hungry because I had the money to eat food, and the opportunity to positively affect someone’s day through just a simple interaction. Small gestures, when not expected, often mean the most.

While on the beach one day, I had two girls approach me and ask if they could ask me some questions for a study that they were conducting. They showed me a set of photos and asked me to pick out the four that best described my life and then asked me to pick out four that best describe who God is. I was very impressed with their confidence and certainty. I happened to share the same beliefs as them and we were able to talk in depth about God. I found it very comforting to talk with someone who I barely know but was able to connect to them on an emotional and spiritual level. This has inspired me to be more confident in my faith and to trust that everything has a purpose.

This experience was transformational to me in the sense that it changed y outlook on life and the way that I react to events. Living with depression and anxiety has always been a struggle in my life. This STEP experience allowed for me to escape daily stress, relax and reflect on how to cope with my depression better. I was able to gain a better understanding of how to embrace and handle my emotions better. I also was able to gain a greater sense of independence throughout my trip. Overall, this experience has allowed for me to become more independent, confident and responsible. This will allow for me to better manage my time throughout my final year at Ohio State University to better my quality of life. This trip also changed my personal and professional goals for the future. It has inspired me to take the path that I chose best for me, and to strive for gold. In the past when I have undergone difficult times I usually let them overwhelm me. I have learned to turn to those who care for me and to take a more positive outlook upon life.

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