What I Wish the Desert Had Taught Me: 3 Life Enhancing Things I Would Tell My Depressed 20-Something Self

Keith Hayden
2 min readSep 4, 2022


The feeling of betrayal is what I recall the most.

Upon graduating from college, I remember thinking: “This is not what they told me. I expected more.”

All throughout my time as a cadet, I heard something to the effect of “you’ll forge friendships for life here”.

That was the furthest from my experience.

Post graduation, my solitary path twisted through a burning desert of loneliness. Each step heavier as the previously untouched sand became thicker and more difficult to navigate.

As I made my aimless march frustrated resentment at my fate stretched over me until I was cloaked in an unrecognizable black cloth. An unnatural light killer black few could penetrate.

I was sad. And part of me wanted to stay that way.

This was my logic back then, “I’m sad and depressed, so I need to continue feeling that way to the maximum extent until I’m ‘out’ of sad.

Looking back I laugh with empathetic pity at that mistaken philosophy.

What I would tell my younger self

If I could talk to that depressed young man, here’s what I would (gently) tell him.

You need more realistic expectations for people in your life.

Life isn’t a video game or a movie. Friends will not always be around to help you when you need it. Learn to find peace with yourself.

Don’t push away opportunities for connection

Everything happens in its own way, in its own time. Be more open to surprises arriving in unexpected forms.

Forgive your friends and yourself

All relationships in life have their season. Sometimes you can prepare for the shift, for others you have no say. Your only option is radical acceptance.

You can’t control other people, but you can manage your own psychology to the best extent possible.

Take responsibility, but don’t despair when it doesn’t have the intended effect. Sometimes, no amount of effort will change the outcome.

What would you say to your younger self?

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