Happiness Is in My Own Hands
by Alex Federline
During my junior year of college, severe anxiety about my future took over my well-being. When I began taking anti-anxiety medication, my best friend introduced me to Nichiren Buddhism. Although I was interested, I didn’t believe that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo would solve this problem.
My grades slipped from A’s to C’s in my senior year. I stopped applying to jobs, because I had become discouraged by the constant rejections. No longer caring about my productivity, I started to abuse my medication.
After graduating, I hit rock bottom. One night while under the influence of drugs, I attempted to drive my car but was stopped by my best friend. The scariest part was that the next day, I had no memory of the previous night.
After deciding to take control of my life, I received the Gohonzon on Aug. 13, 2015. Warmly embraced by my new district, I attended meetings every week. Being part of a community dedicated to bettering human life, I thought that I might be able to better mine.
On the path to becoming a stronger person, I started chanting vigorously to find work in my field of interest, biology. I kept getting rejected from jobs that I applied to, but this time, I would not quit. Instead of feeling more anxious, I felt hopeful through my Buddhist practice. This allowed me to persevere and, as a result, I was hired in February 2016 as a lab technician in a biomedical research company, where I continue to work today.
Determined to develop a more consistent practice that year, I joined the Gajokai Academy, a faith training group for young men who support SGI-USA activities behind the scenes (e.g., ensuring that members safely arrive and depart meetings, that centers are fully operating through proper room setups, temperature controls, etc.).
I had always been anxious about life in general, but when doing Gajokai shifts and supporting the members as a young men’s leader, I felt confident about myself. Through the causes I was making to advance kosenrufu, I was creating fortune and learning valuable lessons about punctuality, respect, responsibility and compassion.
In September 2017, I became the Mid-Atlantic Zone Gajokai leader, and from the time I joined the Gajokai Academy, we have had over 1,000 consecutive days of Gajokai coverage at our SGI-USA Washington, D.C., Culture Center!
In the process of transforming my deep-seated anxiety, it emerged full force. I was unfulfilled at work, thinking I wasn’t good enough, and, once again, felt deeply insecure about my future. I started drinking heavily to cope, following the pattern of alcoholism that runs in my family.
In the midst of my ups and downs, I read this guidance from SGI President Ikeda: “If you should fall, just get right back up. If you can pick yourself up, you can move forward. You are young. Now is the time for challenge and construction” (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, Part 2, pp. 262–63).
A Buddha is also known as “One Who Can Endure” (see The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism), because we appear in the
world enduring hardships, so that we can overcome them and lead others to Buddhahood.
Toward the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival last September, I delved deeper into SGI activities and visited the young men’s division members. I was struggling but felt that if I could encourage just one person, then I would achieve victory. In October, I took on a new mission as the Washington, D.C., Region young men’s leader and was also promoted at my job to senior laboratory technician.
I still have ongoing challenges but am now better prepared to handle whatever comes my way. For instance, the week of Nov. 18, Soka Gakkai Founding Day, my grandmother and a childhood friend passed away. This was one of the most difficult weeks of my life, but instead of reverting to old, destructive habits, I mustered the courage to support a November General Discussion Meeting.
That week, obstacles at work also arose. A co-worker had complained about my leadership, and I was almost fired for it. I chanted seriously to have an honest dialogue with this colleague. Chanting so hard that I was sweating, I saw my tendencies. My arrogance and lack of clear communication were contributing to our disunity. I chanted to convey what was really in my heart.
The next morning, I cast my ego aside and apologized to my co-worker for the miscommunication. Since then, we have had a great relationship. Through my Buddhist practice, I’ve learned to transform even the most negative work environment into a joyful one.
Watching me become happy, my family has started to appreciate my faith. My brother, who was most resistant to my Buddhist practice, even bought me a book by Sensei for my birthday!
Through fighting for the happiness of others, I have learned the value and potential of my own life. Today, as the Mid-Atlantic Zone young men’s leader, I am determined that every young man can have a breakthrough toward the July Youth Discussion Meetings, confident that even if they fall along the way, they have the power to get up, move forward and open a new path. WT