Happiness is something that can’t be given. It can’t be bought or acquired. It has to come from within you. We all seem to know that. Yet, we still walk around unhappy. I still walk around unhappy. It’s almost as if we overlook the great things going on in our lives. The success, the good health, the friendships, the positivity. But, what do you do when that doesn’t bring you joy? What happens when stress overwhelms you? What happens when the negative thoughts in your head speak so loudly that it causes you to go blind to the light at the end of the tunnel.
I often feel this way. I’m not afraid to speak on it. Throughout all this success, adulation and productivity I often find myself unhappy. It feels sometimes as if I don’t have genuine connections in people. They know “HBCU Pulse” but not Randall Barnes. People often never contact me to check on me or have friendly conversation or to even network. It’s always something that people want. They want to be posted on the page, want to be a client, want to figure out how to get money, etc. It gets upsetting often. It feels as if I’m a tool and not a person. It hurts often.
The hurt comes from a need for validation. We all feel it. Our generation thrives on likes, retweets, shares and follows. Hitting high amounts of story views gives us a high that we continue to search for. We become addicts for the attention. My story is different though. I’m not an addict. Far from it. I’m numb. And it’s a perpetual numbness that I feel. Pulse has gone viral multiple times. We hit 2,000+ followers in under two months and are creeping closer and closer to 23K. We’re hosting celebrities like Pretty Vee on our live and our interaction is through the roof. Yet, I’m not happy. I’m not satisfied. This success doesn’t cover how I feel.
I often feel alone. Sure, this feeling can be perpetuated by this quarantine but I’ve felt this way for a minute. Weeks on end I tried to find the answer to why I was unhappy. This flare up happened back in November as my graduation loomed. I went on the story and spoke my piece on how I felt and several people reached out. I felt better. I felt affirmed. Yet, I slipped right back into the same place I was in multiple times as 2020 loomed. It was the craziest feeling. I’m going to schools like North Carolina A&T and Tennessee State University. I’m attending a CIAA basketball game at Fayetteville State and covering the Mister HBCU competition, being treated as if I was a celebrity. I was around more people than I ever been in my life. Yet, I still felt alone.
The feeling is easy to explain. Sure, I was around a bunch of people but I didn’t truly feel connected to them. I long for the moments where I could go out to eat, go bowling, go to the movies or do something that isn’t in the veil of work. My relationships have seemed so transactional. They often don’t feel authentic. They don’t feel transactional. Maybe it’s me. Sometimes I don’t know. Maybe I should express how I feel. Maybe I’m doing it now. This is the prime example of being in my head and I’m forcing my way out.
It’s several reasons why I’m always in my head. I never have the time to address my problems. I’m always there for everyone else. I’m always leading people in the right direction and assisting in unlocking the greatness inside of them. I’m always crafting posts on Pulse that can aid me in continuing to chase my dream of being the Millennial Tom Joyner. I’m quarterbacking a team of talented people and trying to ensure that I’m disseminating my vision for where we’re going. I try to be perfect sometimes.
Even in my moments of authenticity and human nature I’m striving for perfection. The pressure intensifies. I often wonder how I can be a leader and have people look up to me and look to me for guidance and wisdom. The pressure intensifies even more. How can I make connections with people if we go through the same song and dance of a 2-3 hour conversation then don’t talk for months again? The pressure intensifies so much that I start to break.
I realize that validation is my problem. I want to hear that I’m great. I want to feel the change that I’m making. I want to see the happiness that I provide people. When I don’t feel it, I spiral back into this cloud of unhappiness. The only way I can confront this is to find solace within myself. I have to be my own source of validation. I’ve been told this. I have to listen to others just as much as I fight to be listened to. I have to look out for myself for once. I have to get out of my head.
That’s why I decided to step back from HBCU Pulse for 4 days. As you’re reading this, I’m back in the driver’s seat of this rapidly growing monster. But, I took a hiatus. I had to find myself. I had to get myself back together mentally. I had to retreat to the one thing that always has brought me happiness: writing. I feel better right now. I want to keep this feeling. I will keep this feeling.
I wrote this to make myself feel better. Maybe people will hear me. Maybe they’ll look within themselves and confront how they feel. Maybe I can inspire people to create real relationships with each other and not be so segmented and cliquish amongst ourselves. But, this one was for me. I’m reading this article just as you are. I’m reminding myself that I have to get out of my head and get out of my own way. From there, happiness will be plentiful.