Life is at a halt- so why are we running all the red lights?
With this pandemic, there is everything from anxiety to pain to loss to hope to happiness. Every emotion you can think of the world is feeling all at once. And it's scary, because in a country that is so go go go, sometimes we forget to feel everything deeply. We forget to stop. The world was certainly not equipped nor prepared for this drastic change, not just on a public health level, but also on a mental and emotional level.
But what’s also just as crazy to think, is that in a changing time like this, that is affecting everyone, no matter where they are in their life, we are expected to keep going. We are expected to wake up every day and do something. With all this time, isolated away from outside distractions, we don’t block out distraction time. We don’t block out time in our days to drive to the mall, go out to dinner, go to a party, or hang out at a friend’s. Since we can’t do any of that, we are all often stuck with ourselves or a select few. And when you’re in the same place consistently- the external world not showing much change, our internal world becomes a lot more distracting.
By distracting, I mean far from empty, far from the same day-to-day. So obviously, with more time and fewer outside distractions, we tend to think a whole lot more. And at least for me, I’m thinking about the constant need to make the most out of each day. And when I don’t, I feel as though I’ve failed. And here’s why:
The norm for a college student involves a day filled with lots to do. At school, I found myself always searching for something to do. If I had an extra hour or two from classes I was catching up on sleep, starting a new Netflix binge, making food, hanging out with friends, doing work. I had so many time-filling options, that I never really knew what it was like to be bored out of my mind. And when I had nothing to do, I was confused, lost without a purpose, and did I mention, bored out of my mind?
But enough about the boredom part, because quite honestly, I feel grateful to be able to be bored. What I’m not so happy about is my view on keeping busy- my view on the idea that life must keep going.
There are so many things I’m hearing from everyone. Some have said that this is the best time to create, do, plan for the future. While others are saying it's okay to not do it all- to view this extra time as simply a way to relax, watch movies, tv, chill, forget about our responsibilities. But, as an upcoming graduate, I find myself struggling to find a happy medium.
Graduation is looming over me and I’m nervous- because it is so difficult to fill each day with productivity. I find myself almost feeling guilty for not doing what I need to plan for my future every day. A day I’m not checking job postings, checking boxes off my to-do list, touching up my portfolio, or doing something to help me grow, seems like a day wasted. And it's scary to think that this impending future is soon to be the life I will live in such a short time. And this quarantine has only made me think about it more. And I don’t even know what it will look like.
With fewer distractions to drown out these worries I have, I am constantly bombarded with thoughts. Will I have the motivation to apply for jobs? Will I finish my portfolio in time for the nationwide hiring spree to come? How will I compare to other people in my position? Will I be good enough when the time comes? Will I be ready?
At school, I was kept busy- if I had an upcoming exam on Monday, I knew I had at least Friday and some of Saturday to forget about it. I could let loose with friends and remind myself that Monday is quite literally days away. But now, with the inability to do what I want with my friends, I have much more empty time. But the time I have, despite it feeling endless and empty, is often feeling filled. Filled with my thoughts and anxieties. Because now more than ever, I am unable to push off my fear of graduating. I am unable to spend final moments with cherished friends and walk as a college student again. I can’t savor feeling like a student because there isn’t much left to savor. And that’s what’s most frustrating.
When there isn’t much to look forward to in my day-to-day, I find myself dreaming of a future that feels far away. And I am constantly living for that. But at the same time, that future, when this ends, and the world begins to return to normalcy, scares me. Because we will all have to face the temporary and permanent changes of this time that will be for as long as necessary. We will all have to adjust to life as we never knew it would be. To know that we don’t know what will happen is a scary thought.
And I am always trying hard to live like it's Saturday and Sunday isn’t around the corner, and Monday won’t be coming. But now, with fewer distractions, I am becoming even more aware that the dreaded Monday will come- that the dreaded end to college is not so far away. And it's only a matter of time.
But this fear is entirely normal, and I know I would be feeling the same way if I were in school- I would just be distracting myself from the reality of the situation. But sometimes I do get sad- realizing that we all live in this in-between phase- what I call the present. The present is basically what we all have but don’t realize we do until it's gone. Because the what's next? thought is always creeping up. It's like I could spend a whole day preparing for my future and still find myself thinking, what will I do tomorrow? And then I start worrying about what tomorrow might look like, and then I get a little sidetracked. Or I might put off today because I know tomorrow I’ll have endless time too.
But the future always has a leg up. This in-between phase, the present, only lasts so long if we are always looking behind or in front of us. Because all of a sudden, we reach the future and it's there. And then it's gone. And then it becomes something else entirely. Monday comes, and then the future is Tuesday, Wednesday. And all of a sudden it's Sunday night again, and the cycle continues. But the future takes on a different form every day.
So what I’m saying is- yes I should be a little on edge- we all are on edge. We are blind to the future, and yet we look to it for guidance. We have no idea what tomorrow will look like. We don’t know if we’ll get the summer we wished for, or the last few moments of college we dreamed of.
But the end of college and life as a student is looming and is something I will face eventually. I know that looking forward to something won’t make it come any faster, and hiding from the future won’t slow down time. So I guess all we can do right now is be okay in this phase I’d call the “in-between.”
We are finally given the opportunity to stop, so why do we keep trying to go go go? I know I’ve been trying to be productive, but this past weekend, I’ve been doing not much at all. And I shouldn’t be mad at myself. The future is important, but we shouldn’t value it so much. We shouldn’t value it more than the present. Because right now is all we know. And why would we worry and let something that doesn’t even exist yet, ruin what we have now?