March 5, 2024

Starting college is a big step in a student’s life. It’s exciting and scary to face new schoolwork, meet all sorts of people, learn from teachers, get used to different environments, and make friends. But doing all this during the pandemic makes everything tougher, bringing new and unusual problems that change what we think of as a normal college life.
At first, the thought of going to class in your pajamas at home seemed cool. Being able to relax in a comfy spot, watch lessons in sweatpants, and have the little comforts you like made it seem like a lucky break.
You could even snack, text, or chill in your favorite seat while listening to your professor, which felt like a fun change from sitting in a regular classroom. But soon, I realized that what looked perfect had its mix of good and bad things to deal with.
When the pandemic first disrupted our lives, I, like many others, assumed it would be a short-term inconvenience. The first few months of online classes appeared reasonably easy; I could attend lectures, complete homework, and participate in recitations while enjoying the convenience of studying from home. It was an ideal setup, or so I thought. However, that initial optimism was short-lived as the toll on my mental health became increasingly apparent. My room, once a haven, transformed into a suffocating dungeon. The monotonous routine of waking up, opening my laptop, and facing the screen day after day began to wear me down.
The outside world felt distant, and the departure of friends, who moved on with their lives or left the country, left me isolated. The monotony of my surroundings had a negative impact on my academic performance. Dragging myself out of bed to participate in lessons became a regular battle. The world’s vivid colors faded to a dismal gray, and the lessons themselves became a muddled, incoherent noise. It felt as if I was living in a world without sunlight.
My emotions spiraled into irritability, with even the smallest things triggering anger. The noise became unbearable, prompting me to isolate myself further with the sanctuary of earphones. Listening to music became an escape, a way to drown out the world and its challenges. In this state of seclusion, I developed lethargy. Simple tasks, such as doing laundry or fixing my hair, became challenging and the weight of responsibilities felt overwhelming.
Waking up every day became difficult, and the appeal of a longer escape through sleep got stronger. I yearned for the freedom from having to worry about grades, classes, assignments, or responsibilities. It became evident that I was not okay. The heaviness weighed on me, both physically and emotionally. I longed for everything to stop if only to temporarily escape the burden of feeling anything at all.
But I wanted to be better, I was desperate. Desperation can make you claw for even the tiniest bit of air when you feel like you’re drowning. That was my mindset – I wanted to be better.
Opening up about my struggles with my sister was a pivotal moment. It was a difficult conversation, filled with tears, but her understanding lifted a significant burden off my shoulders. Determined to breathe again, I sought ways to revitalize my spirit. I searched the Internet on how to make life meaningful again and how to fight this depressive state that I was in and someone suggested meditation as a means to clear the mind.
As soon as I read that, I wanted to try it for myself, so I did. As I focused on my breathing, the world around me suddenly became silent. The noises in my head vanished, and all I could sense were my breath and heartbeat. At that moment, the wind brushed against my face, and when I looked out of my window, I was greeted by a breathtaking scene: a blue sky, shining sun, rustling leaves, and chirping birds. The realization hit me – the world is genuinely beautiful. If I gave up now, I wouldn’t get to experience these wonders again – the wind, the warmth of the sun, the crispness of the air. I yearned to feel alive, not just to survive but to truly live.
This eye-opening encounter shifted my perspective dramatically. Suddenly, the noises I once found irritating – the rustle of leaves, the wind, people talking, dogs barking – became melodies that resonated with life, these “noises” that I’m hearing are what make me alive, they are one with life. Hence, I stopped wearing earphones, choosing to embrace the sounds of the world around me.
Now, at 21, I look back with deep gratitude for having persevered through my most challenging and darkest times.
As I write this article, I am just a few months away from graduating college. I eagerly anticipate the chance to continue living my life on my terms. Now, I can confidently say that I am happy because my life and the world didn’t end when I was 18. To those who may be facing their struggles, I leave you with a quote: “Everything will be better. It might be slow and painful, but you’ll get through it. You will.”
Thank you for joining me on this journey of rediscovery.