My semester has not been great.
Every time I turn around there’s a new thing due, a new test I forgot to study for or a new responsibility placed on my shoulders. Heck, just this week I’ve had two concerts, a presentation I misunderstood the date of and had to do on the fly, a listening quiz I stayed up late the night before to study for and a work night where I didn’t figure out what I was going to write about until I went and had a silent moment of reflection in the hallway. When I leave the office tonight I’m going to have to study for another test, prepare for another presentation, do a few more homework assignments for a class and cram to get my composition project complete. Oh, and return some library books.
The sheer amount of stuff on my plate has taken its toll. I’ve been more anxious this semester than I’ve been my entire school career. There have been several days where I’ve run home in the middle of the day or ducked into a practice room just to have a moment to lie on the floor and catch my breath. Every time someone asks me how my semester’s going, I laugh nervously. To be fair, I’ve always struggled with my mental health, but this semester it just feels different.
But I’m not alone. Everyone I talk to seems just as unhappy with their semester as I am. Even some of the faculty have been going through it. While it’s validating to know I’m not alone, it begs the question: why does this semester suck so much, and what do we do about it?
Primarily, I blame the fact that this is our most “normal” semester since COVID-19 hit. We went from normal classes to quarantine and now we’re trying to get back to regular classes. Everyone wants to be as confident and educated and productive as we were before the pandemic. But we’re not.
Maybe we just didn’t learn the same over the last few semesters. Maybe some of us spent our Zoom-mesters slacking off and now have to re-learn how to…well, learn. Maybe some of us learned better online and are now suffering in-person like we were before. Maybe some of us were in high school when COVID-19 hit and never learned how to properly be in college. Or maybe we’re all just burnt out from everything the last few years have thrown at us.
So what do we do? Surely I’m not going to write 500-700 words about how much this semester sucks and then just leave it?
If there’s one thing that’s gotten me through the semester, it’s my friends. Someone to watch me be manic in The Herald office as the night goes on, perhaps to laugh hysterically with me. Someone to sit in the car with at 3 a.m. and traumadump. Someone to share a glance with in class, silently saying “are you seeing this?” Someone to send Tumblr memes to. Like I said earlier, we’re all going through it, and having people around who care about you who you can commiserate with makes it better.
Finding small joys has also helped keep my sanity intact. I’ve barely had the time or energy to play my favorite video games or do any crafts, but I’ve managed to read some good fanfics in bits and pieces, and I’ve been writing some of my own. The escapism and venting I can do while writing has always been so comforting to me. Maybe I haven’t been able to sit down and binge my favorite shows or movies, but the laughs I’ve had while watching hours of TikTok compilations have been worth it.
Finally, mentally restructuring myself has helped. Accepting the things I cannot change, and reflecting on what I can do to make my circumstances better. I’ve stopped looking at my performances with “Oh God, is it gonna go well?” and started thinking “Well, it’s gonna happen either way. Good or bad, this concert is going to happen, and what happens happens.” Things are still stressful, but they are going to keep happening to me, so I might as well just let them happen.
If you’ve spent this semester holding on for dear life and waiting for the world to stop spinning, or if you’ve realized this semester that you’re not doing okay, and maybe you never were, and maybe you never will be, then this is your sign that things will get better. We’re all in this together, we’re all having a hard time, and things will get better for all of us at some point. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you have a future. You can do this. You can make it through one more week of finals. Pass or fail, ready or not, finals will happen. And then they’ll be over. And no matter what your grades look like coming out of it, at least you’ll never have to take Fall 2021 finals ever again.
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