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Student Series 04: To Being    

Student Series 04: To Being

These are challenging and unprecedented times for [Insert topic here]. Seriously, it’s hard to find an aspect of daily life that hasn’t been impacted by Covid-19. But among all of those, the ongoing changes in the lives of students stands out. That is why we created the Student Series. 

The Series is meant to be an outlet for students to share their feelings and experiences as they navigate uncertain times. It also serves as a resource, helping fellow students see that they’re not alone in what they’re going through.

To check out other Student Series submissions, click here. And if you’re a student with a story you’d like to share, email us at LocalOptimist@Madhappy.com.

Artwork by FISK

BY YVONNE SCHICHTEL

A couple months into quarantine I was lying on my bed post shower, wrapped in a towel. My sister was lying on the floor, on furlough from her job. “I can’t do anything” we murmured in different ways, staring into the abyss. Passing by, my mom poked her head in and said “You’re a human being, not a human doing.”

We burst out laughing. 

To know my mother is to know that this is exactly the kind of thing she would say. We laughed not because it was funny but because of the density of such a simple quote. We laughed because it was the exact appeasement we were unknowingly looking for in that there was nothing we could do.

Sometimes you need someone to tell you that. Sometimes, your earth needs a global pandemic to tell you to slow down.

In an era defined by doing, we have been forced to reconcile with our time as beings. The atmosphere at a competitive university, especially, has always existed with a “do, do, and then do some more” mindset. An unspoken competition in suffering exists— who is doing more in less time, who is working harder, who is sleeping less.

But the college life as we know it exists no longer, replaced by long walks and facetimes. A certain undercurrent of understanding lies beneath each masked smize, each zoom wifi glitch, and each awkward side hug on the street. As we move from the initial shock of the pandemic into the “new normal” we have all reclused in our own ways. The prevalent frat parties and weekend benders have disappeared (or happen in silence). My small glimpse of nightlife filters into my bedroom window above the pizza and cookie shops—once the Mecca of late night gatherings.

Being at a college campus certainly feels different then being at home. Deadlines and projects are piling up with the turning leaves. Kids are perfecting their resumes and zoom angles, hoping to secure a job in the looming economic recession. As a senior in fashion design trying to complete my thesis collection on my bedroom floor, even doing is looking a lot different. Our bedrooms have become our classrooms, gyms, studios and even dining rooms. The space no longer exists as a place to sleep but as a place to work…so uh…so much for being right?

Part of the anxiety we feel is that we are falling behind with this disruption. It is our fatal flaw perhaps, the pressure we place on the timeline of life. The constant need to validate our purpose with success and work. The universe handed us a pandemic, and we went ahead and tried to bake bread, learn a new language, and get six pack abs with all this “time” we were given.

What we often forget is that the time was always there.

To be really means to exist in the moment. It means to appreciate the rare blue sky that peaks through the upstate New York clouds. It means to take a deep breath after surviving zoom anxiety in your discussion class. To be is to go to bed amongst your mannequin and pile of papers and try again tomorrow. It is to feel the weight and sadness of the world on your shoulders. It is also to feel the gratitude and happiness of a long chat with your friend.

Of course, easier said than done. 

To really be, one must grant themselves the permission. So from my mother, to the rest of the world, remember:

You are a human being, not a human doing.