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Why Getting Too Comfortable is a Bad Thing

Once I realized that my plan to take a gap year after high school and travel the world for a few months was crushed by the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., I spent the entire summer of 2020 preparing to attend college on campus. If you recall, UMass Amherst had planned to house a portion of students on campus for the fall 2020 semester, and I convinced myself that I was ready for it. The first week of August 2020 rolled around, and we all received that devastating email from UMass one evening that explained classes would be fully remote, and even worse, very few students were allowed to live on campus.

The following year gave me time to truly reflect on many aspects of my life. I studied at home both semesters last year, and my days consisted of school work and driving to my part-time job at a local mushroom farm. On paper, life was relaxed, easy, and quite simple. I had the luxury of making my own meals, having the house to myself, doing school work whenever I desired, and following my own schedule. But, the way I felt about my routine was far from satisfied.

After the fall semester of 2020, all of my family members returned from their schools and work to live in the same house again for the winter. Every day, I woke up, went to my part-time job, and chipped away at my two winter classes. Like many 18-year-olds, I thrived on social interaction with my friends. Feeling sad about not seeing my friends during the winter was just a small portion of the thoughts that went through my brain every day. I felt strongly about being responsible during the pandemic and did not want to put older family members in harm’s way. While I watched my peers hang out together unmasked on social media, I sat at home every night, every weekend, wishing things were different. I recall reading stories online and seeing social media posts about how teenagers’ mental health was suffering greatly from this lack of social interaction. We all felt saddened by this new normal. Life became monotonous. Every day was the same, a feeling many could relate to during the peak of the pandemic. Waking up, going to work for a few hours, and then grinding out homework became my norm that winter. 

When I was presented with the decision to attend school on campus for the spring semester, I signed up for housing because I thought it was the extra push I needed to escape from this repetitive daily routine. I was struggling to live at home because I felt eager to spread my wings and try new things, but convinced myself that I didn’t have the mental skill set to do so. As much as living at home sucked when I could’ve been living on campus, it felt more comfortable to me. Teens go to college because they look forward to stepping out of their comfort zone, meeting new people, and finding themself. I wanted all of those things, but there was something holding me back: my mindset.

Initially, I thought that going to college on campus that spring would change everything for me. After spending a couple of short weeks on campus, I felt no change at all, and if anything I felt worse. This rapid switch to living on campus during the height of a pandemic happened way too fast for me, and it just didn’t feel right. Looking back, I disliked living on campus for that short period of time because I had grown accustomed to living within the walls of my childhood home. Falling into the quarantine lifestyle was much easier than trying to pull myself out of it. 

Even though living at home wasn’t ideal for me, it was what felt comfortable or at least the most familiar. So, to transition from a familiar daily routine to packing all my belongings and moving into a small dorm room without a roommate was a drastic change that I was not prepared for. I am grateful that I recognized how uncomfortable living on campus was for me when I did because when I moved back home after two weeks I made a commitment to myself to make more healthy disruptions to my routine. I recognized that moving back home wasn’t the perfect solution, but I also knew that my happiness was in my control. If I wanted to have a successful spring semester, I needed to do things for myself that brought me joy in life. I tried to prioritize my health more, both physically and mentally.

For those of you that have tried to make that same commitment to yourself before, you can understand how frustrating the process is. Telling yourself that you’re going to make more time for yourself in your life is no easy feat, and I still struggle to do it. My biggest takeaway is that falling into the same daily routine for extended periods of time with very little variation is an unhealthy pattern of living. Ever since I’ve realized that and have worked to disrupt this pattern, I have felt strong desires to experience new things, meet new people, and simply do the things I’ve always wanted to. So if you see me living in a different part of the world in a year or two, don’t be surprised! This is the youngest you’ll ever be, so just do the damn thing.

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Caroline Tierney

U Mass Amherst '24

Caroline is a sophomore majoring in Finance and Psychology. She loves the outdoors, hiking, fishing, boating, skiing, and exploring new places.
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