By Harrison Neville
As the year draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on all that has occurred. This will be my fourth year with The Alabamian and my last. I only have one more semester, and I want to make it a good one.
This year hasn’t been an easy one. I doubt I am alone, particularly among college students, in saying that this year has been a blur. It seems like we’ve moved from crisis to crisis and the constant feeling of concern over COVID-19 is never ending. Recently, the first U.S. case of the Omicron variant – which the World Health Organization has marked as a variant of concern – was reported in California, coming at a time when all any of us want is for this just to be over and enjoy a normal holiday with our families.
For most students, the end of this semester means a break from school after a particularly difficult semester. An article in the Washington Post in October highlighted the negative impact that the pandemic has had on college students. The article pointed out a survey done by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University, which examined data from 43,000 students who sought treatment in 2020 from 137 centers. The data examined showed that 72% of students reported that the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health.
It doesn’t feel fair. We all deserve a break. Unfortunately, that’s not really up to us. In times like this, I think it is most important to focus on the things we can control.
So, to my fellow students, if you feel like this semester has been rough, I promise you’re not alone. Students all across the nation are feeling the incredible stress, and the fact that you are struggling does not in any way make you weak.
Sadly, we can’t change the reality of our situation. We can’t make the pandemic end. We can’t undo the effect that the last two years have had on our psyche.
But we can choose to move forward.
We can choose to refuse to let this pandemic stop us from getting up and living each day with purpose; we can continue to live fulfilling lives in spite of all the trauma we’ve been through.
Of course, when I say it like that, it sounds easy, right?
I know it’s not that simple. Every day is a battle, and for me personally, it often feels as though every day is a battle that I am losing.
But that doesn’t mean each day isn’t worth fighting for.
I have friends who are graduating this December, and I know that for many of them, the future is a frightening experience. It opens up a realm of possibilities that they aren’t sure they are ready for, and the uncertainty and stress of this pandemic does nothing to help them.
But I have faith that they will make it through it.
Since I was 12 years old, I have been a backpacker. One of the very first things that I learned in backpacking was that the only way to get where you are going is to keep walking.
I know, I know, it seems like a simple lesson, but it’s one that I often think about when I find myself thinking about giving up. I have a destination in life, and while I am just as unsure as the next college student what my destination is, I know that the only way I will get there is if I keep moving forward.
Believe me, I know it is hard sometimes. I know somedays you lie in bed and wonder if it is worth getting up. I know there are days when you just want to fall down wherever you are and give up, and I know there are days life just hurts so much it doesn’t seem worth living.
Hold on, please; I promise you’re not alone.
Keep going, keep moving forward and whatever you do, don’t give up. No matter how dark the tunnel you are in gets, no matter how much the walls seem to close in on you, I promise there is a light at the end and you’re not alone.
If nothing else, you’ve got me, as a friend reminded me recently, “strangers are just friends you don’t know yet.”
We might not know each other, but I promise, your story matters to me. So come on, keep moving forward. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got one semester left.
Let’s make it a good one.