For much of the last 16 months we've grown accustomed to the daily disappointment of mandates that prevented us from doing the things we loved.  We barely ate at restaurants, concerts were canceled, movie theatres shut down, ballparks emptied, family gatherings put on hold and weddings postponed.  Surely I missed a few hundred other things.
It sucked for everyone, but we all reacted differently.  For me personally, I was okay - at first -  with being locked down.
But then three months turned into six.
Six months turned into nine.  And before we knew it, a whole year went by in what seemed like a blink of an eye.
All the while I did what was asked of me;  I wore my mask, sanitized, stayed home, tried to follow all the mandates yet I still got COVID back in December.
Full disclosure, I have not been in a good place.

As I look back on the past year-and-a-half, I think my downturn happened right after the New Year; my head wasn't right.

I became irritable, grumpy, and bored..  I grew anxious and insecure, lazy and lethargic.  I missed my friends, family and my old routine more than I ever could have imagined.  While I longed for the normalcy and the routine of the pre-pandemic days, I was also experiencing a touch of depression which made me not want to anything.

Last winter, friends of mine postponed a wedding that my girlfriend Samantha and I were really looking forward to. When I learned that it was rescheduled for the first week of May, the thought of going seemed like a great idea on paper, but deep down, it freaked me out.
My brain was saying to me, "Brian, you haven't seen these people in forever. You look bad, you're out of practice socially, your clothes aren't going to fit, and you're better off just finding an excuse to stay home."
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But I shut my brain down and powered through, and even though the anxiety of seeing a lot of people literally kept me up at night with the sweats, we went.   And I'm glad we did.
The wedding was unbelievable. We had drinks, ate good food, I danced (I never freaking dance) it felt nice to put on decent clothes.  I loved reconnecting with some of my favorite people I hadn't seen in over a year.   And I laughed.  A lot.  The best part was actually seeing other faces (no masks) smiling and laughing too.
It felt good to feel "normal" again.
Here's my point to all of this:  If you've been hesitant, or have been putting off that wedding, or that big old backyard BBQ , birthday or graduation party, don't just do it, do it bigger and better than ever.
Most of us are vaccinated, or partially vaccinated by now.  Use some common sense, try and make sure your guests are doing the same, and then invite the shit out of everyone.
If your backyard fits 30, invite 45.  If your wedding venue limits you to 200 people, invite all 200.  And if someone messages you or tells you they can't make it, or that they're debating not going,  do everything in your power  not to take "no" for an answer.
Most of us are doing just fine, but others (like me) not so much.  I know something isn't right with my brain and I'm in the process of working to make it better.  Right now I can't say what is causing these issues, but I do know that staying home, hating myself and avoiding people is NOT going to make it better.
As things open up in this state (and the stifling stranglehold of the pandemic loosens) you'll find that some people will hit the ground running, ready to face the world whereas others, like me, might not.
This is the struggle that many people are facing right now.
Before Samantha and I left the wedding venue the following morning, we had a few minutes to chat with the newlyweds.  After congratulating them on their nuptials, we got a bit silly and scrolled through our phones like in the movie "The Hangover" looking at the ridiculous  pictures taken the night before.  And we laughed some more.
We thanked for them inviting us to this truly beautiful night and wished them well on their honeymoon.  I may not have known it at the time and my crazy brain tried to tell me not to go, but their wedding truly felt like the party everyone needed.
I know I did.

LOOK: Here are the 50 best beach towns in America

Every beach town has its share of pluses and minuses, which got us thinking about what makes a beach town the best one to live in. To find out, Stacker consulted data from WalletHub, released June 17, 2020, that compares U.S. beach towns. Ratings are based on six categories: affordability, weather, safety, economy, education and health, and quality of life. The cities ranged in population from 10,000 to 150,000, but they had to have at least one local beach listed on TripAdvisor. Read the full methodology here. From those rankings, we selected the top 50. Readers who live in California and Florida will be unsurprised to learn that many of towns featured here are in one of those two states.

Keep reading to see if your favorite beach town made the cut.