Solange ain’t prepare me for this.
I started this school year well aware of the bulk of work ahead of me. I felt my collar and chest tightening at just the thought of how this semester could potentially play out. And it played out as expected: never ending stress and anxiety, frequent lashing out, recurring apathy, and overall forgetting to take care of myself.
It’s December now. And in hindsight, I realize my body wasn’t solely responding to this semester, but an ongoing cycle I’ve been wrapped in since last spring: no breaks. Following the end of last semester, I had 2 weeks off before I flew out to Philadelphia for 10. Those 10 weeks of academic research and conferences, were followed by 3 days with my family then back to Madison for job training. Those two weeks of training followed with the GRE (twice), the school year, an internship, a job, and graduate school applications.
Thanksgiving was the first time since May that I was with my family longer than 3 days. I hadn’t gone that long without being home since I literally was living on another continent.
The culture of college, especially at an institution as academically challenging as UW, requires us to give so much of our time and energy to this never-ending fight for productivity and efficiency. Whenever my to-do list isn’t completed, I resent myself, I feel behind, I feel inadequate. Not being home for months at a time leaves me feeling detached, and as if my priorities are out of whack. I question if I can adult outside of college, how I’ll function without seeing my family if I were to live out of state. I’ve questioned if my accomplishments thus far are even worthy of success. (Anxiety really is a demon ya’ll.)
It has taken time for me to understand the roots of these recent feelings. I’ve been a planner my whole life treating it as an equation that only makes for dreams coming true. This equation has earned me a full tuition scholarship, multiple other scholarships, internships, excursions abroad, and most recently research at an ivy league institution. Yet, as graduation approaches, the weight of these past 4 years is piling on me more than ever. This degree isn’t just mine: it’s my mother’s, my father’s, my grandparents’, my siblings’, my cousins’, and others in my community that didn’t make it to this point.
However, with all the joy and pride understanding this concept brings me, I still become frozen in the idea of “What’s next? How can I live up to the prophetic visions of my grandfather that deemed me a superstar since childhood?” In the hardest semester,emotionally and mentally, of my college career, I haven’t been able to share it with my family. Is it worth it? I think, I overthink, I shut down, I pray, I reboot.
Just when the world appears to be crashing down, I finally let myself breathe, no matter the form it comes in (this past weekend it happened to be canceling all my plans to sit alone in my room and watch Jane the Virgin, #TeamMateo). There’s something really therapeutic in telenovelas, something that makes you jealous that your ups are no where as high as theirs and their lows are hella’ avoidable. But at least my life isn’t on national television for the whole world to see my distress right?
My family supports me. My accomplishments matter. I deserve time to myself without thinking of work.
These are just a few affirmations I try to remind myself as this semester comes to a close. It’s been hectic, like a smoldering fire that never can be extinguished, but some days the flames are stronger and hotter than others. I don’t want the burn to go away, it’s taught me too much. I just want to get through the fire and be better than I was before, a phoenix.
I feel better today, and that’s better than I felt yesterday.
I feel my pain, but I feel the love in me too.
I’ve done this, I can do this, I will do this.
I work hard, I am proud of myself.
When you want something, you don’t give up easily.