On Thursday, March 7, I woke up at 6 a.m. snuggled up to my now ex-boyfriend, enveloped in the rise and fall of his chest. One yawn and two eye rubs later, I was dressed in my athleisure uniform and out the door, en route to the University of Colorado Boulder’s main campus. I never could have predicted it’d be my last day on campus as an undergraduate student.
My second semester of senior year felt like a burnout waiting to happen. The burnout did in fact happen in February, but I had the momentum of the past four years propelling me, or should I say stringing me, to the graduation finish line.
Outside of a full course load, I was pursuing an honors thesis in the journalism department and working three jobs as a yoga teacher, nanny and editor at a local magazine. And I wasn’t even unique in this, as it felt like everyone around me was in the same race to adulthood. A part of me was addicted to the hustle, while the other part was oblivious to my sanity pouring down the drain.
Insert March 12: the day the university closed. At first, I admit I was actually looking forward to putting life on pause. I was clearly unaware of the severity of the coronavirus and how long the shutdown would actually last. Typing this in November while in my childhood home in Illinois, I’m still in a little disbelief of it all.
My life break didn’t happen in March, April or May — I was still working and writing, just remotely. My break happened in July when I lost my post-college job, boyfriend and our apartment on the same day. The stress the pandemic placed on those three entities left me single, alone and on an airplane where my parents were waiting on the other side.
As a 22-year-old woman who spent the past four years working every second to craft the seemingly perfect post-grad life, I felt like a pure, utter failure.
And yet again I wasn’t alone. A Pew Research study revealed in July, 52% of young adults lived with one or both of their parents. Before COVID-19, moving back home was the antithesis to success. I felt a dark shadow loom over me as I pleaded with my circumstances.
Graduating from the structure education has instilled upon us since childhood will always be daunting, but doing so in the context of complete absurdity left its wound. I feel for the 2021 graduates who will soon be entering this world punctured by uncertainty.
Now as I revisit this essay in January of 2021, I feel reflecting on what I may have learned during this time of my life feels like an injustice. I was not “healed” in November when I started documenting my thoughts, and I am most certainly not “healed” now. But I did uncover one thing: having the courage to sit with the darkness makes you a complete badass.
In 2020 I lost a lot, just like the rest of the world, but I’m beyond grateful my health was not one of those losses. I did learn how to put my own mental wellness first: I got a therapist, created healthy boundaries, and became less interested in my obsession with productivity and perfection.
All that truly matters is who is going to pick you up at the airport after you get your heart shattered, and for me that was family. I’ll hold onto them as we continue to navigate this unprecedented experience.