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How to Stay Thankful as a Pessimist this November

Let me be blunt with you — these past two years have been rough (at least for me). And as a self-proclaimed pessimist, trying to paint 2019 and 2020 in even a shred of good light is nearly impossible. In addition to the many obvious bad cards the universe has dealt us, COVID-19, the Australian wildfires, Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, a tumultuous presidential race, and many other tragedies, I have battled my own demons. The college admission process my senior year of high school was heartbreaking; out of the 17 schools I applied to in 2019, only 10 accepted me, and I had little interest in attending a single one of them. And ultimately, the one I did choose was not the right fit. I detested my freshman year of college and stubbornly refused to get involved in any extracurriculars at my former institution. After a long, dreary year, I, like many others, fantasized about how wonderful 2020 could be. The new decade was just in arm’s reach, and it already offered many exciting opportunities. Things started to look up when I received admission to transfer to Boston University, but this was quickly overshadowed by the many restrictions the coronavirus placed on my education.

Now, I must admit, my experience this year and in 2019 is quite incomparable to others’ situations. I am well aware we are all juggling and navigating different challenges, some much more painful than others. However, I think we can all cumulatively agree that 2020 has been unkind to the vast majority of the world. This is especially true for pessimists like myself; I already struggle to see the glass half full, and 2020 seems to have licked every remaining droplet of hope from my personal bucket. Yet, despite the many struggles I have faced, I have been practicing the act of mindfulness. Even in these dreary, difficult times, there are minor successes I celebrate, and they have kept me afloat. 

[bf_image id="xx7mrrtsgbnngsq9wz5c6n"] As November has rolled around, I have stopped to pause and smell the roses blooming in my life. Sure, they may be wilting, but they still sprouted up and attempted to blossom in the face of adversity. This, in itself, is a blessing in my eyes. COVID-19 introduced me to the stark reality of death; it is constantly lingering around us, making life so delicate and fragile. As people have come and gone throughout the pandemic, I have celebrated my chance to be here on earth. Life is not easy (this is quite deep for a Her Campus piece, my apologies), but I get a new chance to live each and every day to the fullest. I have been blessed with health and the ability to keep pushing forward, and I believe this is something to hold at great value under such trying circumstances.  

I know for many of us, getting out of bed and repeating the same monotonous routine over and over again can also be tiring, especially when there is no foreseeable future in sight. Every time I walk across Commonwealth Ave, Starbucks in hand, backpack slung over my shoulder, prepared to attend class, I give myself a pat on the back. I like to remind myself that college is never easy. Even before the pandemic began, I struggled to attend lectures or complete assignments on time; I now have the added pressure of the world basically crumbling around me, so attending and working hard in college is an even greater triumph than in the past. It is okay to recognize and accept that the world is not easy or normal right now, and your best work may require more energy than previous times.   [bf_image id="q4s6il-gd0h4-dmstl4"]

I like to celebrate more frivolous, or perhaps less deeply-existential, successes as well. Although I am grateful for BU’s efforts to keep its students safe and healthy, their somewhat overbearing precautions have made it challenging to befriend people as a transfer. Somedays, I feel like Rapunzel in Disney’s Tangled, staring at the same four walls of my dorm room waiting for life to begin. Within the first few weeks of school, though, I was fortunate enough to have two girls, Lucy and Lianne, reach out to me. In addition to being a self-proclaimed pessimist, I am a mess when it comes to social anxiety. I get incredibly nervous meeting new people and taking the first step in approaching others. Both Lucy and Lianne took the initiative of reaching out to me, and for that, I will forever be grateful. Lucy is a fellow transfer, and both of their friendships have helped me feel at home in Boston. I have gained a sense of community here at BU and found people who make me both laugh and smile. In times like these, we all need a support system, and though it may seem small, two friends can make a world of difference. Friendship is something I hold close to my heart, especially after such a lonely first year of college. 

My sisters in my sorority have also been a great help in my transition to Boston University. COVID-19 has placed a large damper on the mood; almost all club or sorority events are online, and the virus has made it difficult to extend an olive branch to those around me. While I am not the most peppy student on campus, I was super ecstatic to join my sorority’s chapter here at BU. Our VP of recruitment, Marina, instantly welcomed me into the community with open arms and has since been a great mentor or guide, offering some of the more hidden tips and tricks for surviving college at BU. As a new student, it’s easy to feel lost with the social-happenings and what not on campus, and having a loyal friend to show you the ropes is an absolute must. To my excitement, she became my “big” as well, and I got to meet her first “little,” and my now twin, Shira. While it’s still early on into the school year, I am already so grateful for their friendship, support, and laughter thus far. I am not the best at articulating my appreciation for others, but knowing I have a family away from home to count on has given me an immense sense of security. Plus, they make for the best brunch buddies, and nothing says fun like sorority Sundays!  [bf_image id="q5b35t-gevls-9eim1s"]

Almost ironically, transferring to Boston University has also made me closer with friends from my former school. As I made the difficult choice to transfer, my friends stood by my side, supporting and encouraging me to follow my heart. While the distance has made it hard to stay in touch since our very informal goodbye in March, my friends have made a conscious effort to maintain our relationships. Technological advancements like iMessage and Facetime have utterly enhanced the way people can communicate, and also granted my friends and I (including my hometown gals) a whole new dimension of interconnectedness. I wholeheartedly look forward to spontaneous group calls and the chance to see their faces as we speak. As the world changes and presents new challenges almost daily, they have established themselves as a constant source of joy and happiness in my life. They are my anchor in a very stormy year.     

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve focused on and learned to truly appreciate in 2020 is the bond I share with my immediate family. During quarantine, we were all forced to live under the same roof for an extended period of time. I would be lying if I said chaos didn’t occasionally ensue, particularly in the form of fights between my brother and me; but, I also realized, through thick and thin, family is forever. No matter where I travel in the world, where I live, or who I meet, my sense of home will always be bound in the connection I share with my mom, dad, brother, and two dogs. They have lifted me up and encouraged me to be my best self in the darkest moments, and they have helped me celebrate and bask in my victories on good days. When I was fussy staying inside for so long back in March, my dad and I took sunset drives down the coast in his convertible. We blasted everything from “Island in the Sun” by Weezer to “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles, all while enjoying the warm sun baking our skin. Little moments like these are easy to disregard or forget, yet they are the foundational glue for the structure of our larger relationship. I may not have survived quarantine without their presence and love, and one day, when I look back on the experiences we all shared, I will remember that one drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. I will soak in the idea of taking one last bumpy ride down Portuguese Bend, wind in my hair, debating some historical event with my dad.  [bf_image id="j3gfwt4wks399z36h39smvw4"]

The larger intention of this article is not to brag nor harp on the many things that have helped make my life so sweet recently. Instead, I want to remind you that life, especially right now, is not easy. We have the right to mourn and grieve the things we’ve lost and the right to not feel okay sometimes. However, in the midst of all the calamity, there are things to cherish and find joy in. Sometimes, the irrelevant aspects of our day, perhaps something as simple as having a good hamburger, can prove to be the difference between a bright or stormy afternoon. And while it may feel silly to focus on insignificant little details, taking a deep delve into what surrounds us can remind us of just how special and wonderful life can be.  

We must also remember that the way we treat and interact with others can make a great difference in someone else’s life. For instance, all of us come into college expecting to meet and make new friends, but we often overlook the true power of sharing a rapport with fellow classmates. The people you surround yourself with can impact the way you feel, and in harrowing times like these, we all deserve a little bit of goodness each and every day. So, please, be kind to one another and take time to check in on your friends. Ask the quiet girl in your sorority to lunch or set up a study date with a boy from your science class; the little things you put out in the world may just be the very thing that makes a person smile this November.   [bf_image id="q7jwsj-6wvrp4-43gqhp"]

Thus, this Thanksgiving season, as we all gather to reflect on a very abnormal and riveting year, take time to tend to your own garden. How can you care for your flowers? Do the petunias in the back corner need a little extra love? What are they looking for, some hearty fertilizer or perhaps a little sprinkle of water? As you care for and nurture your garden, remember to stop and take it all in. No garden is perfect or ever complete, but as buds begin to grow and blossom into gorgeous hues of red and blue, there will always be a sight to appreciate.  

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Allison is a sophomore at BU majoring in international relations within the Pardee School of Global Studies. She originally hails from sunny SoCal but is enjoying living in the Northeast for college. In addition to writing, Allison loves to travel, spend time with family and friends, taste test açaí bowls, and learn new TikTok dances!
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