My New Year’s Resolution: Be Happy


My resolution for 2013 is simply to be happy.

[This is one of those abstract, open-ended resolutions that you're warned against, so I'm supplementing it with my old standby of stretching out my hamstrings and the world's old standby of getting back on the flossing wagon.]

But my main goal for this year is to be happy.  To believe that I deserve to be happy, and to do what I need to feel that happiness.

It’s been hard to write here on my blog because I’ve been ashamed of how I’m feeling. I am disappointed with myself for not loving living in Africa. I feel guilty for being bogged down in my loneliness and discomfort when I am basically on an extended vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the world. And I feel guilty for being on an extended vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the world and simultaneously being surrounded by tremendous human suffering. But all that guilt isn’t fixing anything about this country and it’s ruining me in the process. I worry all the time about not offering enough to the world, but I’m never going to have anything to give if I cocoon myself in my own misery.

I hated the idea of treating our time in Africa as “an adventure” because it felt so distastefully privileged and bougie and self-centered. “This isn’t an adventure, this is real life,” I’d think. But it hasn’t been real life, recently. It’s been less than that, some murky approximation of living under a cloud of depression.  If pretending this is a great adventure gets me out of that trap, then that’s what I’m gonna do.  Hold on to your butts.



  1. First of all I am sorry that you haven’t been feeling so well. Second, I think it is perfectly normal to feel lonely… even if it has been a few months, you still moved overseas, to a place with a completely different culture, and you are far away from your friends and family, so don’t beat yourself up on that. I have been living outside of my country for 12 years now, and though you get used to it, sometimes it still gets me.
    Third, you might not be directly doing something for the world or to alleviate the suffering around you , but if I understood , Collin is doing research on AIDS and tuberculosis and that can potentially make a difference. It is going to sound all mushy but you are supporting him, being there from him, and in this adventure with him.
    I understand the feeling though, I have been unemployed since September (though I do have a part time job that I can do from home), and I kind of dislike that I am basically not doing anything for the world or my career or contributing to our finances or otherwise developing.
    Maybe you could volunteer? That way you would feel you are doing something and get more involved in your life in South Africa?
    But what I wante d to say the most is a big YES to your attitude and resolution… I have found (the hard way) that happiness and joy is a decision, and sometimes you have to force yourself t search for it but it is right there within our grasp. So I wish you the happiest of years, you totally deserve it . And may 2013 bring you all the things you wish for, or push you towards them, hugs.

    • I edited out something about how I am here to support Collin, who is changing the world (or at least trying), so I should get saving-the-world-by-proxy points. You’re a wise woman!

  2. Stupid flossing. It always gets you!

    Also, oh honey. I feel you so hard on the loneliness. You can take a shitload of comfort from my story, too! I moved to Ohio (OHIO. Which is in the USA.) to be with my now-husband, and for a year and a half I was incredibly lonely and out of place. I’m just now getting into my skin here. BUT that’s because I’m way wimpy and because change is hard, especially when you’re changing (even by choice!) for someone else.

    So you got this, and don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. It’ll come.

  3. Volunteering is a really great way to help most of the difficult things you’ve talked about! It’s a healthy way to get out of your head for awhile. You are so brilliant, talented, and loving. And there are soooo many people out there that Need help. You can start one hour a week until you find an organization that fits you. Maybe you can do fitness training with young girls……as an after school program!
    While going through one of my most difficult times giving back is what helped me move forward the most
    Pretending can be a good thing to initially get the momentum going….. I can’t wait to hear more Robbie…… Go kick some butt!!!!

  4. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to think about this as an adventure, because it is an adventure. It would be an adventure if you moved to a new state, or even a new city. The fact that it’s Africa is where it gets a little tricky in my/your? brain. Because, yes, poverty is all around you, more prevalent (and probably harder to see) than ever. But live your life, lady.

    My mom used to tell me not to complain when I was little because children out there didn’t have the opportunities/resources I did. I wonder now if she actually was taking out some of the joy in my young life– it’s important to acknowledge the situation that others are in, but not, I think, at your own loss.

  5. Late to the commenting party here but I’ve been thinking about your post a whole lot. I don’t know if it would make you feel any better but as a South African I certainly don’t expect an ex-pat to be focusing their life on improving my country. In fact, in my view, the best thing you can do for the country as a whole is explore it fully, have amazing adventures and then tell everyone about it and how they simply must come and experience it for themselves.

    If you feel inspired to volunteer in some way, then that’s awesome. If not, I don’t think you need feel guilty about it. Go wine tasting, learn about SA wine and then tell your friends and family in the US which SA wines they should be buying there – win, win.

  6. Robin,
    This is weird and bizarre but I came upon an article you wrote while googling something along the lines of “depressed and engaged,” and after reading your article and identifying with it, I clicked one of the links which brought me to this blog/podcast and here I find out you are living in Africa which is the weird part because I am too. Anyway, I have suffered from depression (and it’s never been worse than now as I am planning my own wedding) and also live in Africa (Namibia though I wish it were Cape Town) as a (lonely) American expat. I feel everything you described in this last post. It would be really cool if you would email me as I would really appreciate having someone to talk to who has gone through / is going through the exact same things I am. Would mean a lot!!!!!!! Thanks :)

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