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Student Series 05: Coping In Times of Danger    

Student Series 05: Coping In Times of Danger

These are challenging and unprecedented times. 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 Mabel Orhiekhoe

To be honest, I have not left my parent’s house since March. No trips to the shops, no grocery store pickups, not even a light jog around the neighborhood. The news of Covid-19 becoming a more serious threat in March sent me into a panic. Was that cold from last week just a fluke or something else? Who have I been in contact with? Who is at risk? Naturally, my anxiety manifested into a fear of the outside, hence the nearly six-month hiatus. 

The months dredged on, blending into one very long week or a sitcom rerun. I felt like I was observing my body from afar not sure who I was looking at when I passed mirrors. After three months of straight boredom, the novelty of the situation quickly wore off, and I was left to face myself with no sure sign of an audience. 

To cope, I turned to self-reflection. Looking back at my second year in college, I came to realize that I was not happy, at least not fully. Not once did I have a real, down-to-my-gut overwhelming gush of happiness. Most of my time was spent barely getting through a grueling schedule of classes, fast connections with people, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. I was frustrated with the direction my life was heading and wanted to change. I was not simply unhappy; I was dissatisfied with who I had let myself become. I was scared of the future and its uncertainty because it seemed like everyone had a plan. 

Reconstructing your habits is a hard and strange journey, but I needed to understand why I felt so lost. Confused, I started to take note of when I felt the closest to my authentic self or when I felt the least unrecognizable. What has helped me cope in these times was getting back to my base senses. I journaled my thoughts and, with the advice of others, wrote down activities that kept my mind stimulated in a healthy way. I turned to gardening to connect with my body in a more present way. I read books I had put off that dealt with mental health, and I stayed away from social media. From cooking with my family to surrounding myself with comforting smells, engaging with the physical has helped me realize that the present can be just as sweet and comforting as endless planning for the future. 

I feel like a lot of times we run from confronting what holds us back spiritually or emotionally because it feels so much easier to ignore what often feels inevitable and unfixable. But like all things you must confront what keeps you back in order to move forward. Honestly, there is no linear way to cope with everything that has happened. However, it is finding what works for you that is the most important part. Being in isolation gave me the privilege to slow down and think about what exactly that looks like for me.

Cornell still feels unreal and weird at the moment. So I chose to take a leave for the semester to sort out what I really wanted out of my life instead of just going along with whatever felt enough. With this extra time, I have also chosen to be more engaged in my university’s community; joining clubs virtually, connecting with campus friends and talking to my advisors weekly. 

While I am a little sad that I will not be able to see Ithaca until spring, I am content, I am happy, and I feel present. We are in a time of unprecedented change and I, for one, want to be present to see what happens.

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.