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On the Highway of Life With Your College KidMarybeth Bock, MPH
I know it’s been a very hard year for you. Every day seems to blur into the next and you are so tired of it all. You’ve been over it since the first week the pandemic hit, and that week turned into months…and more months.
And you have no idea when this will all end.
Not only are you exhausted, but you're feeling depressed, agitated, overwhelmed. You're worried about why you feel all these terrible feelings, and wonder if this is who you have grown to be.
You're scared that this "Pandemic Person" is the real you, the new you that is so very different from the person you were before the world and your life turned upside down.
You don’t want to be miserable, just trying to survive every day, with no motivation, no hope, no joy. I know being this way scares you. You think since you’ve been this awful, lethargic person, depressed and angry for so long, you’ll never be the person you used to be. You fear this pandemic has left permanent damage that will never ever go away.
I'd like to try to explain it all to you as best I can — to help you understand what you’re feeling and why. I want to encourage you and give you the hope you so desperately need.
I know that everything about your life has been so hard. You have been challenged with isolation, spending more time alone and less time with the people in your life who matter to you. You haven’t spent quality time with your friends and you haven’t seen your grandparents or aunts and uncles and cousins in so long. You’re missing them all. All these people used to fill your heart with gratitude and joy. Now you're left with the empty spaces where they used to (physically) be and you’ve never been this lonely.
You had to completely change your entire life this year, making countless adaptations to your routines. Without your carefully crafted plan for daily life, you may feel out of control, anxious and unsettled. Your once organized and active life has been stripped down and rearranged in ways that don’t work, ways you don’t like, and you’re not as productive as you used to be. And when you fail to do your best, discouragement and defeat take away your incentive to even care.
You've been forced to learn new ways of doing pretty much everything, and trying to figure it all out is not only stressful but it’s also depleting. The experiences that helped you feel validated and connected, excited and determined, abruptly ended months ago, and you have been slowly wilting away, having lost so many of the things, people and places that filled you and fueled you to keep striving to do and be your best.
Then there are the special events you were looking forward to that have been canceled, and you’ll never get those extraordinary opportunities again. With each one that passes, you grieve the loss of something you deserved to experience, something that would have created lasting memories, something that makes your life worth celebrating.
And on top of all these hard personal issues you’ve had to manage, let’s not forget the biggest and most powerful influence on your life this past year. The once safe and familiar world you lived in abruptly changed into a world of fear and uncertainty, confusion and turmoil. You have seen the suffering of millions of people and countless lives lost to this sickness that leaves you feeling helpless and hopeless, scared and sad.
These are dark times, and the heavy weight of it all can be too much for you to bear.
This, dear teen, is what you are going through. This, dear teen, is why you feel the way you do.
I can’t tell you when, but I can surely tell you why.
As the world begins to repair the damage and destruction it’s endured, you will emerge and recover, too.
Little by little, you’ll start to fill the dark empty spaces with what gives you purpose and connection, affirmation and inspiration.
And you will start to heal. Slowly, you'll gain back those pieces and parts of your life that defined who you are and fueled who you want to be.
It may take time and effort to recover the confidence and clarity needed to resurface into your old life. It might be difficult to recreate and cultivate former patterns and plans. But I promise you it will all return, with each new decision you make and each new step you take toward a full life of freedom.
It could look different than it did before. Your choices might fluctuate until you find your footing on the freshly formed foundation that you will build. There may be new things you’ve learned that you’d like to keep, new skills you’ve acquired that helped you grow.
What you are feeling and experiencing are absolutely normal responses to this crazy, unpredictable and totally abnormal world. Everyone is struggling with similar challenges and we're all just trying to survive a season of suffering that is keeping us from being our true selves. We are all managing this “Pandemic Person” inside us, and for many, it’s the worst version of ourselves.
You. Are. Not. Alone. In. This. All kids of all ages, all adults too, are going through so many of the same hard things as you.
You have the rest of your life to rediscover the strengths and gifts and talents and traits that will fulfill you, transform you and guide you into a future full of hope. Please try to remember that this terrible time is temporary.
Someday, these long months will be a distant memory, and you'll look back on it and see that you found the strength and the will and the problem-solving skills to survive.
And there might even be parts of this “Pandemic Person” worth keeping for the rest of your life.
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