Opinion: Finding Joy Amidst Despair

The author’s, Boyne City junior Phoebe Holm, setup in Olin Hall as she writes this article and cycles through four different assignments. Even in this situation, there are things around her she finds joy in, such as her ability to even receive an education (Photo by Phoebe Holm).

Things have gotten hard. In fact, things have gotten overwhelming. 

I’ve been juggling employment, school and my physical and mental health – alongside my personal and familial obligations. I find it hard to wake up every day and be excited about my schedule, when it feels like a continuous cycle of dread with little to no time to let my brain fully rest. 

It’s hard to feel hopeful when you are mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. 

Caught between my coursework and my habitation of Olin Hall’s third floor, I have felt stuck in a rut, one that I am finding hard to dig myself out of. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am inherently privileged for even having the potential to attend a collegiate institution and focus on my education. And for that, I am forever grateful. But, it’s hard being a first-generation college student and trying to navigate the still-unknown aspects of this life. Sometimes things just get a little heavy to travel with. 

The pursuit of joy and happiness is not as easy as it once was in childhood. I remember a time when the birds singing outside were loud and apparent; listening to them made me excited about the day. 

Those songs have now become quiet, almost nonexistent in the mornings as I get ready for a day of running from task to task. I miss the joys of waiting for lunchtime and recess, where I could get lost in my imagination and play in the mud without a care. These moments have now been swapped for days of missed lunches and mediocre dining hall food. 

I long for a time when being an adult actually felt thrilling – a time when all I wanted to do was grow up. Now I find myself grasping onto every thread of childhood I can manage. 

In these trying times, I’ve discovered how to find joy and relaxation in the things that keep my mind from imploding – pastimes that take me back to that childlike state: hobbies, people and outlets that allow me to lean into the things I am passionate about. 

The things that release my anger and bring me a sense of calm when everything feels wrong. 

With the ever-impending doom of the end of the semester hovering above my head, now more than ever, it is time to look around and appreciate all the outlets I have that relieve my stress. 

These are the things that keep me living: 


Holm and her parents. The three have an enormously long group chat thread that they have added to every single day since Holm went to college, one of the things keeping her sane (Photo by Phoebe Holm).

My mother and father are two individuals who have an immense impact on me, as they continue to uplift me and support me – even when I am an insufferable brat. They are my rocks who keep me anchored to the life they have fostered for me; providing for me emotionally and physically. I know, no matter what, they are always just a phone call away. 

Knowing that I have them there makes the weight of despair a little lighter each day. 


Holm and Concord junior Samuel Helmbreck posing for a selfie while shopping last Halloween (Photo by Phoebe Holm).

I won’t get too sappy, but my best friend is one of the sole reasons I am still at Albion. He motivates me to get up each day and to keep plugging away at my dreams. He takes me on little adventures that help lift burdens off my shoulders, lets me geek out about my interests and genuinely makes me so happy. 

One of the most important things in life is finding people who will continue to help you foster joy in this world. Those are the people who encourage you to pursue the things you are passionate about and those outlets that bring you pure joy, rather than those who snuff it out and take attention away from the things you enjoy. 

It’s not egotistical to focus on your needs, and you need people around you who understand that. 


Taking the time to discover the spaces and environments that also influence you positively is vastly important. 

Finding places where you can feel content and controlled. For me, many of those places remain off campus, but the Kellogg Center’s fourth floor and the third floor of Olin Hall are places that allow me to find joy in my education. 

If I am in the midst of a breakdown, you will find me at one of those locations. 


A collection of Holm’s art and supplies lies on her designated art station. Lately, she has been creating larger-scale pieces that take more time to complete, so she has something to look forward to working on (Photo illustration by Phoebe Holm).

Along with places and people, art has been an enormous aid in keeping me sane. There is something so rewarding about getting lost in a drawing while music blasts through my headphones. Drawing brings a sense of ease I am searching for when everything feels like it’s crumbling down around me. 

It’s truly an outlet for every single emotion you feel that you can etch into a page and leave there.


I have learned to indulge in all the things I find enjoyable when I feel hopeless. When I feel like crying, I watch a movie I know is bound to make me laugh or fully demand my attention; either that or I listen to music I know will lift my spirits. 

When I catch myself doom-scrolling on my phone, I turn to a comic or a book that either won’t lead to an excruciating headache or will transport me to a better environment than the world of social media. When I wish to revel in my childhood nostalgia, I play with Lego bricks or admire my already-built sets. 

Fostering Joy

There are so many things around me that I have to be grateful for, and I need to devote time to being grateful for them so I don’t continuously fall into despair. 

I spend time on the weekdays and the weekends making the best of my circumstances. Even a quick run to Jackson, or to Concord and back makes me appreciate the amazing landscape I thrive within – taking the time to truly enjoy the things around me, from the smallest plant to the person sitting in the passenger seat. 

I am lucky to have found ways to sustain joy in my life, that no matter what, I have people and outlets I can turn to that keep me anchored to my existence.

Joy is a mindset that takes a great deal of time to develop. The results though are more than worth the effort it takes to cultivate. 

About Phoebe Holm 19 Articles
Phoebe Holm is a junior from Boyne City, Michigan and a psychology major at Albion College. She is interested in understanding the human mind, writing about things that make her passionate and creating art. You can always find her listening to music and watching movies. Contact Phoebe via email at PJH12@albion.edu

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