We’re only just beginning our fifth week here and I’m already feeling burnt out. Last night I laid in bed, my stomach bubbling with anxiety at the mountain of tasks the week before me holds. Even with the persistent nagging of all there is to do, I felt not only unmotivated but downright against reading the pages of writing that sat on the computer screen in front of me. I hit a wall and just felt done. But the real grind is only just beginning. I don’t typically begin to feel so tired until after the second round of midterms, so why am I sitting here before anything has really even begun, ready to throw in the towel?
In my deep shower thoughts, I came to my own conclusion. I’ve hit an emotional burnout. My brain isn’t tired of the theology or psychology readings. My mind is exhausted by the constant, ever fluctuating emotions and confusions I feel so steeped in. We all stepped back into life on campus knowing things would be very different and willing to make the necessary changes. I’m willing to bet that most of us also came here after a very challenging couple of months. I can say for reasons completely outside of COVID-19 (although COVID-19 made many of these things even more challenging) these last three months have probably been some of the worst of my life. I’m not naïve enough to think I’m alone in this struggle. I’ve seen it in other people. They’re different, I’m different. I joke that I’ve regressed socially and that it’s so much harder for me to hold a normal conversation. But it’s not a joke and I know many friends have expressed similar feelings. So many things just seem to have an added layer of depth that wasn’t there before.
I find the challenge of everyday small talk particularly exhausting. Slapping a smile on and saying your fine to someone just politely asking as they walk by is harder for me now than it ever has been before. No one, myself included, wants the verbal vomit of what’s really going on in your mind, when they’re just exchanging pleasantries. I bite my tongue from responding, “Welp, do you have a couple of hours?” in response to someone asking me how my summer was. I believe we are all struggling in our own unique way and being especially cognizant of that right now I feel even more uncomfortable unloading the thoughts racing around in my head onto another person. I also don’t feel like I have the energy to do it very often.
Yet, there are moments in which positivity prevails, in which I feel so tremendously grateful I’m at a loss for words. I’ve had moments of awe and joy that sit in my chest, my eyes even welling with tears at how thankful I am for something that was once such a benign moment of normalcy. I’m struck by how much I’ve been moved in an instant that I think to myself, this is just like it was before.
My head feels like chaos a lot of the time. But then again the world is pretty chaotic now. I think I wanted so badly to return to normalcy when we started classes again. Not this “new normal” bullshit, but simply threads of life that doesn’t feel clouded by sadness and anxiety. Nothing is normal now, it’s not the same. I am so happy to be here and so grateful to have moments of happiness, but I also find myself thinking “I miss college,” because even though we’re here (oof that word just makes me shudder now), I’m still a little sad that “here” is so different.
I think it’s OK to be sad. Human beings don’t like change and the world around has just been changing so drastically and rapidly it makes sense to cringe in aversion. I think it makes sense to be emotionally burnt out. Or maybe I’m just giving myself a free pass that I don’t deserve. I don’t know and honestly I’m not sure I have the energy to puzzle that one out too.