I’m upset, and it’s okay


Adriana Eldred, Photo Editor

My last semester was supposed to be lots of fun. As an art major, I was supposed to make some of my best work in my printmaking class. I was supposed to enjoy my well-earned New York City art tour during April break. I was supposed to produce engaging, well written articles for the school newspaper, and I was also supposed to finish my internship at VSAC, victorious.

But, as we all know, that is not how it turned out. You’ve already seen every sob story on social media and news outlets by now – first-hand and second-hand accounts of how scared, uncertain and disappointed everyone feels about the global pandemic, especially students in their last semester of school. In fact, you’re probably sick of hearing about it by now.

Being in a first-world country, I feel privileged to have my first thought go straight to completing my education, and not necessarily my physical safety or well-being. However, that doesn’t make this semester suck any less, and I am also not immune from the mounting worry of financial insecurity or homelessness. On top of all that, I’ve felt all the stages of grief one feels after experiencing loss.

And, symbolically, yes, something did die – my last shred of motivation. My resolve to push through. My drive to do well in my classes. My will to finish this article.

I thought I would be prepared for this.

But I wasn’t. And I’m still not. In fact, I’m not going to get used to this. I’m going to continue being angry, frustrated, hopeless, depressed and irritable until this whole thing is over and I have time to heal. The biggest hurdle I had to clear is the fact that there is nobody to be angry at. My university is taking an absolutely necessary precaution and rightfully took action by finishing the semester online. This doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

No matter what I do, I’m still not going to have the graduation ceremony I’ve been looking forward to in May, where I listen to a bunch of people tell me to lower my expectations from here on out, receive an empty folder where my super expensive piece of paper is supposed to be, and then be jetted into the real world with a pile of student loans like everyone else.

What we need to understand is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a good student or typically good at managing stress – because right now, that doesn’t apply. I am so tired of people telling me that I’m doing fine simply based on the fact I don’t look like I’m having a mental breakdown.

And I’ll be honest: you should fully expect students to retain little to nothing of course content from here on out. Much of my success has depended on the feeling of urgency after procrastinating for extended periods of time, and while I’m not proud of those study habits, I also don’t feel the same urgency when I could just as well sleep in past my 9 a.m. Zoom meeting without feeling the effects of real-life consequences.

This is not the time to give up, but it is also not the time to pretend we can reach anything close to normal. With the right pacing and structure, I feel I can build up the energy to succeed nonetheless.

My one piece of advice I have to share is this: tell your professors how you feel and what you want from them. Professors are just as unprepared and stressed out as we are, so we need to recognize they are doing their best with what they have. But if we don’t tell professors that something is overwhelming or too much, they won’t know.

I know a lot of the pressure I feel is self-inflicted, and more often than not I am expecting more from myself than my professors are. It’s taken me a long time to recognize this, and I still struggle to figure when I need to stop beating myself up and when it’s time to just let it go.

So, to any students who may be reading this and are experiencing something similar, just realize that it’s okay to slow down, it’s okay to feel angry, and it’s okay to settle for good enough – because I am, and I’m god damn proud of it.