I entered this University wanting to make a name for myself—and like the many things I plan to do, it’s always easier said than done. This isn’t a subtle inspirational humblebrag about how to follow your dreams and keep pushing. Far from it, actually—I’m still a measly sophomore and I give up on myself more often than anyone else ever could. On the contrary, this is an ode to those small spaces that creep up in the middle of the melancholy of being put under pressure, those tiny quiet moments after the bombs have dropped—where we learn to be happy in the craters we create.
There’s always this antagonizing pressure to be perfectly alright and to assure people that your academics and mental health are doing good. This unspoken culture of repression, bundled up with half-hearted “I’m fine”s and thumbs-ups is something we’re all too familiar with. Your progress doesn’t seem good enough until you’re on your third cup of coffee and one article—I mean, assignment—away from a mental breakdown. It’s become the unfortunate norm to sacrifice ourselves to prove just how productive and useful we are.
We spend so much time trying to be good students, we often forget to be good people—and that sometimes means putting ourselves first. I could pull up so many sources on the mental health of college students, but it seems like a waste to show what we already know and experience everyday. But no matter how we twist it, we can’t approach our mental health the way we do our academics. All the answers can’t be solved through an all-nighter, and there are no reviewers to become the person you’re supposed to be. It’s a continuous struggle, to remind yourself why you put one foot in front of the other everyday.
You don’t have to force yourself to be okay, to push yourself into this ideal state of how you want to be. Sometimes, to sit on the curb with the weight of the world is enough. At the end of it all, there’s nothing wrong with being found on the curb; it’s sturdy, stable, and there’s even room for a little chat with all your demons. The more we try to repress how we feel and what we’re going through, the more gruesome the backlash will eventually be. Our mental health isn’t something that can be ignored and assume can be fixed over time—we need to take a step back and reevaluate ourselves before another wave comes our way. Because believe me, the world will forgive you for taking some time in the middle of your personal hurricane.
Like what Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “If you want to awaken all of humanity, awaken all of yourself.” This includes all the greasy and grimey parts we’d rather hide from the world. Wake them up from their deep slumber and talk to them on the edge of the bed until you’re sure there’s nothing left to keep you up in the middle of the night. Stay on the curb, create a little makeshift space, then go ahead and keep walking once your legs allow you to.
I’ve come to realize that I wanted so much to make a name for myself that I haven’t even begun defining who I am in the first place. But I know deep inside that I shouldn’t fret, because while the curb may be comfortable, the road ahead is winding and waiting to be explored. I know there will be lost weekends, lost lovers, and so much lost time, but I’ve still got two long years to go and I’ll keep you updated on what I find.