The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday October 25th

Column: This is for the seniors

DTH Photo Illustration. So many seniors have found themselves swallowed by uncertainty as a college student about to graduate in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. So many seniors have found themselves swallowed by uncertainty as a college student about to graduate in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.

For the first time in a long while, someone asked me how I felt, and if I was OK. 

I told them that it felt like my brain was wheezing. It’s such an absurd image — of course my mental health is not a little emoticon with arms and legs and lungs. If it was, it would be running away from the chaos wrought upon me by school and work and post-grad uneasiness. And maybe it would read a book while watching the sunset on the Mallorcan coast. 

Like so many other seniors, I have found myself swallowed by an uncertainty surrounding my identity as a young college student about to graduate amid a pandemic. It is a socially isolating and anxiety-inducing experience, and every day my brain huffs and puffs to compartmentalize it away. 

One of the most sustaining thoughts, however, is the repeated reminder from my fellow seniors — friends, peers, even coworkers — that I am not alone in these challenges, and that I am not the only one facing them.

In this COVID-19-stricken world, we’ve been running for so long — pushing to make it through the school year, wrap up graduation requirements, pump out job applications, figure out post-grad plans and organize living situations. 

Seniors, when do we slow it down to a paced jog? Or a relaxing stroll? 

I think it’s probably OK for us to take a minute and admit that we can feel lost or burned out or even sad during this time. All the good that could have happened over the past year — to rejuvenate and lift us up — didn’t happen. A pandemic cast splotches of darkness over the light and joy that might have more obviously carried us throughout this uncertain period of growth.

Because that’s what it is: growth. It’s uncomfortable; it’s painful. 

It might be full of laughter with those we’ve been able to reunite with. And also tears, and car rides to emotional playlists, and leaving friendships, and building new habits or distractions, and frustrated pencil tapping, and adrenaline-pumping runs or workout routines, and demoralizing emails, and requests for extensions. And maybe a creative cooking experiment or two (I'm guilty as charged for that one).

I don’t think that any of these feelings and fears are specific or unique anymore. And I think it’s also OK for us to admit — to be brash with ourselves, and forward with those around us — that our brains may not exactly feel great. They might be a bit out of breath. 

But in this period of growth, we’re collecting experiences to use as tools in our lives. We’re feeling a vast array of emotions, finding numerous solutions and implicitly learning an incredible amount of new skills, even outside the Zoom classroom. 

We’re growing, and it doesn’t always feel safe or stable. But we are also planting and taking the time to manifest the beauty and joys we hope to regale in soon.

And on that note, seniors, I think we can agree that there’s more to come.

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