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Dear College Senior: You Don't Have to Have Everything Figured OutElizabeth Spencer
Currently, we are in month six of the COVID-19 epidemic in the U.S. Depending on where you live, there is probably still some level of social distancing, mask wearing, outdoor eating and virtual schooling.
And there’s something else that I’ve noticed — my neighbors or myself leave the sidewalk when we see the other approaching. Spontaneous conversations in line at grocery stores and other places along my daily errand route are largely reduced. And because two of our three children live in New York City (former pandemic epicenter), we hadn’t seen or worse hugged them in forever.
Well, a recent spontaneous road trip changed all of that.
As my husband and I sat in our home in Virginia on a recent Friday night, I realized how much I missed them and needed to get my mama arms and heart around them. So we decided that the next morning we would load up the car and drive to NYC for a few days.
We found a hotel that was going the extra mile cleaning and sanitizing. In fact, they recently formed a partnership with Lysol (which might be why I haven’t been able to find a can for myself).
This trip was not what our normal NYC trips have been. No Broadway shows, not many dinners out and none indoors. No crowded sidewalks; in fact, Times Square resembled a normal thoroughfare instead of the crazy hustle and bustle it usually is in late summer and early fall.
Even with all of that, the city was a sight for sore eyes. I’m a native New Yorker who has been living in the south, off and on, for over 20 years. Seeing this new New York reminded me about what’s important and maybe even more important now. And that is finding a way — no, making a way — to stay connected to the people we love.
We weren’t reckless while visiting my hometown. We wore masks everywhere, there was hand sanitizer seemingly on every corner, and New Yorkers were so friendly and happy we were there.
During this impromptu trip I learned that, no matter what happens — busy life, long work days, extra responsibilities, a pandemic — I have a responsibility to remain connected to the ones I love and the ones who love me.
We almost talked ourselves out of going. We knew several of the days in NY would be work-from-home days for the kids. But to my surprise they were as happy and as eager to see us as we them. From the family outdoor dining night to a mother-daughter brunch, my heart was over flowing. The conversation at those tables and also while watching Sunday football was exactly what I needed. And that was no surprise, I knew that. But what I didn’t know was how much our kids needed it, too.
Let’s face it, these have been scary times and not just for children but all of us. And so we have to fight for pieces of what normal will be and live and love every moment of them.
And in the times you are unable to be the one connecting with your young adult, the University of Michigan Medical School Department of Psychiatry suggests the following:
It's normal during this crazy time to experience feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, or all of the above. You are allowed to feel this way and to communicate with others how you are feeling.
It's also okay to sit with these emotions. If these feelings worsen to the extent that you're no longer able to function like your normal self, reach out to your campus counseling and mental health services to get connected to support.
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. The goal is 7–9 hours per night. Limit screen time in the evening, and avoid caffeine starting in the afternoon.
It's easy to quickly feel lonely and secluded from others during this stay-at-home period. Make an effort to stay socially connected by engaging in regular video or phone calls with friends and family.
Take time for yourself each day. Step away from the news and from your coursework to do something enjoyable, relaxing and rejuvenating.
As the saying goes, this too shall pass, but the question is, “When?” So until that time, find (make) a way to stay connected. Virtual hugs are nice but there are those moments when my kids fit perfectly into my outstretched arms. And in that moment everything is normal again.
It’s time to celebrate with the perfect gift for your new grad!