Depression, Happiness and My Bicycle


I am a millennial. But I am by no means typical, an example of all the things wrong with my generation. Lazy, entitled, high maintenance, selfish. The list goes on for days.

A long time ago I was sitting at a bar with one of my best friends and struck up a conversation with a man from Florida. He owned a company that would charter people’s yachts from Florida to whatever island they were destined for. All expenses paid, travel time and a hefty salary. These people trusted you with one of their most prized possessions and expected you to work hard. He offered us both jobs right there on the spot.

What has stuck out in my mind for years since that interaction is not the amount of money we could have made but something he said. “You Midwestern kids… you just want to work. You guys have this unbelievable work ethic and drive to go above and beyond. Those Florida kids are lazy, they don’t know how to work their asses off.” This comment rattles around in my brain, sometimes daily when I’m having a bad week.

Recently, while at work a co-worker was chatting with an older woman. Somehow the woman was prompted to comment about how young people complain that it’s too expensive to live in the city limits. “Just get another job,” she said, making it sound oh so easy. She continued on by listing all the things we millennials are apparently screwing up. I bit my tongue to hold back the argument but I couldn’t help feeling a bit of resentment toward her callus remarks.

It’s interesting to see these two views together, one after the other. One is so thankful for my desire to work. The other is disappointed in my desire to not work every day, all day. Local versus out of state. Such a strong contrast.

I have worked seven days a week, with god awful hours. I have gone home far too exhausted to even cook a decent meal. I have fallen asleep on my couch at 7 o’clock on a Saturday night, only to wake up to calls and texts from my friends asking me to spend time with them. Alas, I have to sleep, to wake up, to work, to sleep, to wake, to work…

I have suffered from such deep depression caused by a lacking quality of life. Depression that put me on the very brink. Depression that caused me to break down almost daily. Debilitating panic attacks, fits of anger for no reason, unexplained physical pain. I’ll tell you where the pain came from, the emotional trauma that comes from working yourself to death. Every. Day.

I love riding my bicycle, there is no doubt of that. But during this summer there were days that I felt as though I must ride my bike to save money. I have spoken to people that express the same reasoning for their bicycle commuting. “It’s just a cheap way to get to work,” they say. Bicycling should never be JUST anything. It’s so much more. It’s a connection to our community, our neighborhoods. It’s feeling the wind and the sun. It’s laughter among friends. It’s travel free of a destination. It’s enjoying life. It’s love.

I am hoping that someday more young people, and people in general really, will feel they can afford to live in the city limits on a single salary. I am hoping that these young people will enjoy a ride to work. The benefits will include reduced emissions, safer roads, reduced illness and a feeling of being a part of the community. The biggest benefit in my mind is less depression.

I am hoping that we won’t lose more intelligent young people to big cities that offer more connectedness. I am hoping that I can continue to be a part of Traverse City’s future. I want to help it grow. I want to live here. I want to get married here. I want to raise kids here. And I am willing to work for all those things, harder than some kid from Florida.

Let’s ride fast, let’s ride hard, let’s ride.





Shea O’Brien is a Traverse City native, Traverse Heights Elementary alum, Clubhouse member, lifter of weights and proud book worm. Follow his adventures on Instagram at @shea.m.obrien.

TC Bike Life is a story series featuring ordinary people doing ordinary things on their bicycles in Traverse City.

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