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Jocelyn Hsu / Spoon

When Life Gives You Lemons?

It’s the age-old saying we have all heard; when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The concept is inspiring— take the negatives that we all face in life and make something good come from it. It’s a simple phrase peppered with the positivity of the sun-colored lemons themselves and the idea of choosing to see the bright side is uplifting. Unfortunately, it is never that simple. All of the best lemonades have a specific set of steps to create the perfect combination of sweet and tangy. Too much lemon and instead of a nice treat you may find yourself stuck with a sour expression. Too much sugar and the drink may become sickly sweet. Too much water or ice that melts too quickly and it can drown out the flavor altogether. 

In this manner, the perfect lemonade that tastes like summer in a glass is not very different from this upcoming semester. While it is really easy to look at Fall 2020 and see all of the ways it will be different, all of the continued disappointments, and allow ourselves to wallow, that attitude isn’t going to change the situation. However, in a world that is constantly changing and tomorrow is another series of unknowns, it can be really difficult to focus on the bright side and we shouldn’t make ourselves feel bad when that is hard. 

For me, this fall means mostly online classes and a ninety-minute commute to campus for my required in-person research. I’m not going to be able to live in the dorms, I won’t be down the hall from my college friends, I won’t be able to study in the dining hall with my classmates, and I won’t be able to watch the leaves change as they do along the Red Cedar River, a staple of the Fall at MSU. While Learning From Home has it’s benefits, I have really struggled to see them through the seemingly never-ending list of negatives. 

Personally, I struggle with the conclusion of summer every year as it is the most carefree time of my year, and watching my closest friends drive off to return to their schools is really hard for me. Usually, I am able to remind myself that I too am headed back to school, back to my clubs, back to my friends from across the state, back to the freedom that going to college gives me, but in facing the inevitable reality that I am missing all of those things this fall, feeling the time tick by has made looking on the bright side nearly impossible to do. With Fall fast approaching, I knew I needed to find a way to look at it in a brighter light. Learning From Home isn’t my first choice, and it wasn’t how I wanted to spend my second Fall as a college student, but I refuse to let that stop me from making the most of it.

So what did I do? I sat down and wrote a list of all of the good things about this fall. I am a major list person so seeing one good thing right after the other made me feel noticeably better about the entire situation. My list won’t change the fact that my best friend is moving back across the country in a matter of days, it won’t re-open the cadaver lab for my anatomy course, it won’t allow my dive club to practice, and it won’t give me back the opportunity to cheer on our Spartan football team in the home game against the University of Michigan, but it did allow me to see that when life gives you lemons, no matter how complicated the recipe, you can make lemonade. 

So your Fall might not be as unexpected as mine, no matter what it looks like, I am sure it isn’t exactly how you planned it to be. And it is okay to be upset by that. Whether you don’t love online classes, your internship has been canceled, you aren’t going to be able to study abroad, or the looming possibility of the football season being moved is the reason for your change, I suggest you do two things. 

First, remind yourself that it is okay to be upset. This year is different, it is unprecedented, and it has been a mental challenge all around. Remind yourself that if dealing with all of that has made it hard to be positive, it is okay. Second, try making your own list. Get a clean sheet of paper or open a new note on your phone and write down every positive you can think of about this upcoming semester. This can include the things that haven’t changed, the things that have changed for the better, and every small benefit you can come up with. (I have added a portion of my list at the end of this article as an example of how big or small those items can be!) Take your time, think about, leave, and come back, but keep going. It’s not a cure-all, but I figured that if something worked for me, it might work for someone else. 

Bottom line, life is always going to hand you lemons, and making them into lemonade is a great goal to have, but stumbling on the recipe happens. Sometimes we mistake salt for sugar, sometimes we fill past the waterline, sometimes the lemon’s aren’t as juicy as we expected, and sometimes we weren’t actually craving lemonade in the first place. The good news is, lemons are good for a lot of treats, lemon bars, sorbet, cakes, the list continues. And remember, if all else fails, a lot of good pasta recipes call for lemon zest too. 

Erika’s Fall 2020 Bright Side List:

  • I don’t have to pack and unpack all of my clothes

  • I don’t have to choose which clothes to bring

  • I will have access to a car

  • Living at home= living with my dogs!

  • Goodbye dorm room “mattress,” hello pillow-top paradise

  • Home-cooked meals

  • Being able to see little kids from my neighborhood in their Halloween costumes

  • Going to my home church every week

  • Movie nights with my dad

  • No more coordinating my showers with three suitemates

  • I can be completely alone (in my year of living on campus I was never able to find a place where I could be completely alone when I needed my “Me Time.”)

  • Studying with my friends from High School who go to a university local to my hometown

  • Online class= no walking through snowstorms for morning lectures

  • And…

  • And…

  • And...

Erika is a pre-med honors student in the Lyman Briggs college at MSU. With 3 majors there isn't a lot of time for much else but she loves writing whenever she can, going on spontaneous adventures, and thinks there is nothing better than late-night (early morning) conversations with your closest friends.
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