Last week, I was on a walk in the park with a friend talking about COVID-19 (there’s not much else to discuss these days, is there?), when he said something that really resonated with me. As we discussed the implications that this virus has on mental health, he reasoned, “never have we had so much in common with each other yet felt so utterly alone at the same time.” He couldn’t be more correct. I don’t think it serves as much of a surprise to anyone, but people are struggling mentally now more than ever. Obviously, the coronavirus has awful physical implications, but the pandemic as a whole has had more effects on the mind than we even realize. While many people have found productive ways to cope with the unknown, from exercising to taking summer classes, many other people have found it increasingly difficult to make the most of these times. Certain friends of mine who I used to describe to others as the absolute epitome of happiness are now on anti-depressants. Other friends who I looked to as sources of strength now tell me about the anxiety attacks they wake up with every morning. I’m in no way saying that everyone is now mentally ill, but the majority of people I know have more bad days than ever before. I couldn’t understand why our brains weren’t just adapting like they adapt to plenty of other challenges until I read a post that said that our brains are just literally not programmed to face a situation like this one. The phrase “unprecedented times” applies to mental health issues too.
For weeks now, I have been looking forward to this moment. I am sitting in the window seat on my train home to Pennsylvania, listening to Allen stone, and doing one of my favorite things in the world: writing. Most people would think of a 7-hour trip home as exhausting and boring, but for me, these next 7 hours are going to be extremely therapeutic.
During my past month and a half at William and Mary, I haven’t had much time to write. Any free minute I got was spent either catching up on Dancing with the Stars or playing Heads Up with my hallmates, and I wasn’t able to dedicate a solid chunk of time to writing. I’m happy I was present in those moments, but holy moly, I really missed the feeling of spilling my heart out via keyboard.
While I’d love to outline all the crazy, amazing experiences I’ve had over the past few weeks, I’d rather save those stories for my in-person interactions with everyone from home. The one point I want to focus this post on is a theme that has been really prevalent in my past few weeks, and one that has made me have a bit of a paradigm shift: There isn’t enough time in college to mull over your emotions, and I can’t tell if that’s super healthy or super unhealthy.
There’s a song called “This Will Be My Year” by Train. It’s about having hope that the upcoming year will be the year that changes everything for the better. Pat Monahan, the lead singer, explains through song that even after many failed attempts, he still has hope every new year. By the end of the song, Monahan realizes that every year has its own struggles, but with his wife by his side, he can tackle the challenges the years ahead will inevitably throw his way.
Coming into 2018, I was struggling a lot. I was in the midst of my accutane cycle, and even though my skin was slowly starting to get better, I was extremely insecure about it. I was also getting over a really tough breakup. My foot was still injured, so couldn’t run to cope with these struggles, and that was the cherry on top of the very crappy pie. I didn’t have much hope for 2018 because 2017 kicked my butt that badly. All I wanted was a year of healing, but I didn’t think it was possible.
Luckily, 2018 was my year. It was far from perfect, and I definitely didn’t meet my future spouse like the Train singer did, but it was the most transformative year of my life thus far.
The weather today was absolutely disgusting. High 30s and cloudy. I’ve always wondered why hell is fiery because an ice-cold atmosphere seems much worse to me than any level of heat. Anyways, as I was raking the leaves in my front yard, I pondered the same things I’ve been pondering on a daily basis the last few weeks. Why is the cold so much harder for me to handle than the heat? Why does the sun have to set so damn early these next few months? Are there places where the sun doesn’t set this early? Would I be happier living somewhere warmer? Would I want to give up the pretty fall colors and the cozy snow days to live somewhere where I’m not constantly freezing from November to March? Why am I so much sadder in the winter than in the summer?
When I think back to the past school year, the most stressful time period was not AP exam season, or finals season, or even cross country season. It was prom season. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with the way my prom turned out for the most part. Still, I get so stressed thinking about how much energy I put into finding an inexpensive dress, figuring out the transportation situation, and making sure my hair and makeup appointments didn’t overlap. All of the drama that came with these conflicts made me so anxious, and at some points I just wished we never even had a prom.