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Coming back to college for my last year should be exciting, right?

Despite the issues going on in the world, I was thrilled to learn that I would be on-campus to experience as many last moments as I could. I bought my school supplies, figured out the new bus routes, and accepted every challenge that has been thrown at me so far, but why do I feel so off? Why am I off my groove?

Since classes started, I have felt like a tiny wire in my brain has been unplugged or is in the wrong socket causing me to not be as connected to school as I have in the past. I am not sure whether it is the increasing fear of graduation, taking five classes with two Senior Inquiries, or the emotional stress of watching the pandemic continue. Maybe it is all of the above. When I come to school, I am usually able to get myself back into the chaos of coursework, working, and seeing friends. Now that I am here, all I feel is this increasing weight on my chest about the differences between this year and last year and how things aren’t the same. They can’t be the same.

As I walk around, I notice masks and place markers everywhere that reinforce us to follow CDC guidelines. I am thrilled that everyone has been considerate and following the rules, but it is also a constant reminder of the changing world and the pandemic we are in. Instead of hoping to hang out with my friends in the library, I see signs that restrict the number of people we can sit with and watchful eyes to enforce the policy. As much as I want to see my friends face to face, I know the dangers that lurk underneath and the risks I would take to see them. 

While I love the classes I am in, I feel like I cannot motivate myself to do the coursework. It’s as if my mind is saying that this is not real, and my school life will begin eventually—just not now. I keep pushing and fighting against this, but I feel overwhelmed by the wave of nervousness and fear that comes with schoolwork. As a senior, I have less than a year to truly enjoy my last moments as a student before taking a huge leap into another world. When I look at jobs and internships I fear that I am not qualified enough, and I will face constant rejection for every application I send out. Instead of feeling thrilled for the new opportunities, I am terrified that I made every mistake possible to not prepare myself for graduation and going into my career.

There is no easy way to reconnect and I still struggle to stay connected, but I have found some ways to reengage at school. 

  1. Talk to Your Friends

two women sit on a swing set. they are facing each other.
Bewakoof.com Official | Unsplash

     While I can’t see them in person, I still text my friends about everything going on. Instead of painting on a smile, I let them know how I feel about what is going on. I was stunned to know that I was not alone, and they were also feeling alone. Although we can’t be together, we stay strong by talking with each other and relying on each other for everything. You could have a Netflix movie party, find time to Skype, or just text them a couple of times a week. Anything is better than remaining alone and distant from the people who care about you.

  2. Ask for Help

two women talking at a table together work business casual
Pexels / Christina Morillo

     This could be from your friends, a counselor, a family member, or anyone you trust. Going through the pandemic alone is scary and daunting but having someone else to share the burden with gives you strength. When I was asked for my roommate’s help to keep me grounded, she was happy to help. From the few times, I have already asked for her to help me through a rough spot, she gives me the perseverance to get through the obstacles and come out on the other side. It does feel like I burden her and other friends of mine with my issues, but I know they are not there judging me. They care for me and will help me through this difficulty.

  3. Take a Break

girl meditating at sunset
Photo by Jared Rice from Unsplash

     School always creates an enormous storm of stress for me and I keep thinking I have to finish everything at the moment I receive the assignment. Instead of creating relief, it causes me more stress than ever if I can’t finish my work by the time class starts. The pressure to do well increases- as if I am drowning at sea and I am doing everything I can to save myself even if it is making it worse. The other day, I was in one of my classes and the professor asked us to begin the class by taking three deep breaths in silence. By the second breath, I felt like crying. I could not believe the amount of stress I had been carrying with me that caused me to have an emotional reaction to a simple task. From that day, I try to take a few moments and stop. Stop doing work. Stop looking at my phone or the time. Stop feeling worried. Releasing the stress that was holding me back became my saving grace to helping myself be better.

This won’t help everyone, and I am still finding new ways to help myself reconnect with school. After three weeks, I feel myself being okay again. I found my lifeline and continue to fight the current and get myself to safety. I am not alone, and neither are you.

Jessica Manly

Augustana '21

I am passionate about making others happy, problem-solving, and leading others to success with strong communication skills, ambitiously taking the initiative, and am adaptable to new situations. I am currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in English and Communication Studies and Associate's Degrees in Multimedia Journalism and Mass Communication as well as Classical Studies. Life is not always easy, but our perseverance and vulnerability help guide us to success.
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