Big Sur: Welcome to my happy place
You’ve probably seen this photo a hundred times on inspiring reaches of the internet. But I took this one myself. The above place is my happy place, but not in the way you might imagine. It’s a place I conjured up in my own imagination, only to find it pebble for pebble the way I created it.
Let me explain. For much of my life, I’ve fought an invisible demon, that being my sometimes crippling anxiety. A large portion of my life went on, me in daily agony, without any knowledge or formal recognition of the mental illness I carried with me. Instead, I spent years testing out different therapies and theorizing what was happening.
When my panic attacks climbed to unthinkable heights and leaving the house became dreadful, I tried hypnosis which is where I learned a lot of my coping techniques.
While I can’t say I ever truly felt the effects of hypnosis (the concept freaked me out a little and I never fully gave in) I took away a really important piece of mindfulness that aided me in my hardest times. This was the ability to create a fictional place in my mind. It was a place I was encouraged to recede to, where I crafted every corner, flower, and stream. My place could be anything I wanted. What mattered was, to me, this place was safe.
So in this defense mechanism, I created an image. It was a shallow oasis connecting to the ocean, one with a single stream of water cascading onto the shores. Above was a rocky cliff lined with wildflowers. In my mind, I’d walk along the shoreline and breathe deep breaths. I’d sit in the flowers and feel the sun on my face. I’d find peace and serenity there while the outside world bombarded me with heart palpitations and shallow breaths.
All photos in the above slideshow were taken by my incredibly talented friend, Mike. You can view more of his photos here.
Then I saw a photo of the place. It was early college when I discovered the place in my head was a tangible, well-traveled place. At the time, my mom and I were already planning a road trip down the California coast, and the location was on our route. There was no question about visiting. It became my biggest excitement for the trip.
There are no words to explain physically standing in the place that so many times before has eased my pain. There is no memory strong enough. I wish I could live there forever, that I was actually able to walk along the beach where I’ve found solace in my own head. But the sheer visit was enough to make a very powerful point: the place I was able to escape to was real. Though I imagined it, it’s a place I can visit again in the future or a place I can visit anytime I close my eyes.
There’s something powerful about a place like that. It’s the reason this image is so fitting for my homepage: a part of my home lives there, whether that be in person or in my head.
If you’ve got a place you can crawl to in your worst moments, be it your parents house or your favorite park bench, hold on to it. Imagine it when you’re falling asleep at night. Go there when the outside world seems too tough. And if you don’t have a place like this, create one. You’ll never know the comfort until you’re in your own place feeling the sun (or the rain) on your skin in a way you didn’t know was possible without complete tangibility.