Bearing Bliss

Three students share their not-so-simple journeys to finding happiness


Photo courtesy of JoAnna Grgurich

Senior JoAnna Grgurich partakes in worship at Waypoint Church. Since joining Waypoint, Grgurich has come to find peace in her connection with god.

Waking up everyday can begin to feel demanding.  The ringing of your morning alarm demanding your immediate attention. Debating whether you should continue lying there or the inevitable, leaving the comfort of your warm bed to start getting ready for the day. After your morning shower you begin rushing to get out the door on time not even stopping for breakfast on your way out. Once arriving at school you are tasked with the daily struggle of trying to get everything accomplished school wise while also trying to balance an ever-demanding social life. For many, finding the balance has always been a struggle, but for senior Anna Schwarm trying to manage all of these things has become much harder than she could have ever imagined. While Schwarm used to find these activities stressful yet manageable mere months ago, the past few months have been trying to say the least. Earlier this year, Schwarm unexpectedly lost her father. Since his passing, she has struggled to connect with who she once was, but rather than continuing to force this connection, Schwarm has found it easier to redefine her definition of joy. 

“It’s difficult to continue your life how you once lived it, but I’m [trying] to find the positives in everything,” Schwarm said. “but the fact that I can reinvent what joy means to me now and can [begin] to find that again because I am not the same person I was before he passed, I am an entirely different person now and I think discovering who I am now that he is gone will give me the most joy down the road and I [look forward] to seeing who I become.”

Senior Anna Schwarm poses in front of a rainbow portrait at the St. Louis Art Museum. While Schwarm has found immense comfort in herself, she still enjoys hanging out with friends. (Photo Courtesy of Anna Schwarm)

For many, it can be hard to find joy in trying times. During these times, it can be hard to find something to motivate you to be happy. This reigns true for junior Avery Kolkmeier struggled to feel anything earlier this year while she was recovering from surgery. 

“I struggle with mental health, and when things get rough, it [can be] hard to find the joy in the things that used to make me happy,” Kolkmeier said. “In January, I had surgery and went through a break up at the same time, so during those weeks when I couldn’t leave the house of go to school, it was hard for me to find joy in the things and people around me, so I began to isolate myself and struggled to open up to my friends and family because [at times] it felt like nothing would help.” 

During this time, Kolkmeier remembers trying to distract herself with the things she could control. Whether this be watching her favorite sitcom, reading a book, or even scrolling through social media. But she quickly realized these distractions were affecting her recovery. 

“I wasn’t doing well mentally which made it hard to do well physically,” Kolkmeier said. “When I fully realized what I was doing to myself I started reaching out to my friends more and more and as time went on I started to heal.” 

While many people are currently struggling to find inner joy, senior JoAnna Grgurich remembers finally finding her own during a church retreat in middle school.  

“The speakers on stage were saying things that really resonated with me, things like if you’re broken you can find your joy,” said. “I think this is where it all changed for me. [Figuring out] I didn’t have to live this life I was living and can be happier by trusting God to carry me through has been good for me.” 

Since discovering her faith, Grgurich has found purpose in her life and while she believes finding joy within yourself is important she has gained immense comfort in her relationship with God. 

“Before discovering [my faith], I was looking for my joy elsewhere,” Grgurich said. “I was looking for it in [unhealthy things], but when I came to Jesus, I realized I don’t have to live up to anything. Jesus already sacrificed himself so we could live this beautiful life, so I feel like I found my joy in something eternal and actually worth my time.” 

Finding joy within yourself is a crucial part of the healing process. For many, it can be the first of many steps to finally processing your emotions. While this step can be beneficial for most, Schwarm has found it healthier to feel everything rather than masking her emotions. 

“I try not to motivate myself to be happy only because I have had such a long run of pushing my feelings aside in order to be happy for other people, “ Schwarm said. “So I have stopped motivating myself to be happy and instead been allowing myself to feel everything I’m feeling in the moment.” 

 While Schwarm finds comfort in working through her struggles independently, Kolkmeier has found a balance of both can be beneficial. 

“Looking after your mental health and being aware of your limits is so important. People can only take so much and when something exceeds that limit, the outcome can be worse than taking a break from the stressor,” Kolkmeier said. “Those who struggle with mental health often withdraw from friends, family, and activities they once found joy in which can hurt relationships, and in turn, make mental health worse, so noticing when you’re struggling and getting help in any way that you’re comfortable with is never a sign of weakness, but strength and courage.” 

While Kolkmeier has finally found a sense of joy, she is aware many haven’t quite found what works for them, so rather than offering advice she finds it easier to stress the importance of finding your own joy. 

“I think being happy with yourself is one of the most important things you can work for,” Kolkmeier said. “Because how are you supposed to enjoy going out with friends, working on goals, or even spending time with yourself if you don’t have a sense of inner joy or love for yourself?”