We are so deeply drained. We no longer have the energy to click another Zoom link, write another forum post or merely exist in the chaos that is being a college student amid a pandemic.
We did it though, right? We did make it through? Surely, there has to be some solace in that.
To be able to roll across that finish line after running on empty for so long feels like an accomplishment. Perhaps more desperately, it needs to be an accomplishment, a silver lining to tie ourselves to as we move forward.
But it feels like there aren’t encouraging words to say to adequately assess this school year. It has knocked the wind from our sails and drowned us in self-doubt.
From institutional betrayals to pandemic walls and police brutality close to home, the cycle never stopped. And against such a painful backdrop, the many things we love about UNC — the community, the dogwood trees, the Carolina Blue skies — felt a million miles away, and we were left feeling broken.
Maybe there will be a time next year when we can look back and determine what we learned from this mess — how deeply the scar cut. But right now, it’s just too hard to say. No, not every waking moment has been bad, but the hurt of this school year has made even the good moments a little less good. Or at least more difficult to fully absorb.
We want to be optimistic, but those words feel hollow when we can’t even bring ourselves to believe them. We cannot look back and say it was all OK, because it wasn’t. This year reached a fever pitch. It broke us. We got used to living in a fog — ignoring our mental health in the name of productivity.
No matter how often we heard that we were understood, it never really felt like we were. We were encouraged to be flexible and give each other grace as we all struggled together, but no matter how much stretching we did, it didn’t ease the pain.
This year has been a collective trauma, and the only way to go forward is a collective healing. A way to lean on each other that has some substance behind it, beyond the empty platitudes. Maybe that doesn’t even feel like a concrete solution to the breakdown of our community, but giving a reductive answer to the healing feels severely misguided.
If there’s one thing we’ve been reminded of this year, it’s that we only have each other. We can’t look to the administration, the Board of Governors or the N.C. General Assembly to help us — they’ve made it clear that they won’t be there.
As we close this school year and look to the next, it is worth keeping in mind what is coming next. Next fall will be something else new. It won’t be exactly the way it was before, or the way things are now, but another fork in the road.
We are headed down this path together, whether we like it or not. So take care of yourselves. Take care of your friends. Perhaps then, we can fill our own cups instead of perpetually running on empty.
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