This semester I hit an all-time low. In fact, I hit it quite a few times. In all honesty, I've never felt so stressed, scared, and sad all at once for so long. And to make things worse, everyone around me was struggling, too. I took on a lot of my friends' burdens as I tried to help them as well.
Everything that encapsulated 2020 felt like another weight on my shoulder. I was sad that I was missing out on my college experience, lonely because I felt like my friends were all being distant, and stressed about whatever obstacles in life I still had yet to face.
It only got worse when I went back to school. As the semester went on, my schoolwork took the back burner as I turned to unproductive ways to cope with the intense emotions I was feeling. On most days I struggled to get up, shower, and make myself lunch, let alone deal with work and school. At night I would stay up and cry, sometimes for no reason other than I was hurting. I felt isolated, confused, and insecure almost constantly.
I started to hate who I had become. I felt unproductive for not being able to focus too long on my schoolwork and burdensome for the emotions I was feeling.
One day in particular, I remember being so angry with myself and my decisions that I couldn't focus on the work that was piled up in front of me, which was honestly how I felt a lot. Almost daily, in fact. But this day was worse. I don't quite know how to describe it, but I was so angry, and stressed, and confused, and I didn't know what to do.
I didn't know who to turn to. So, I looked to God. In all honesty, I had completely distanced myself from God. I avoided talking to Him even when I knew I should have. I felt like He wasn't with me, and I made no effort to be with Him. So, for the first time in months, I put in my headphones, turned on my Christian music, and decided to go for a walk.
I ended up walking to the café that I work at and grabbing some coffee. Honestly, the walk helped me a lot. I thought a lot about my life choices, and I realized that I didn't want to be this girl that I was becoming, one that makes stupid decisions and isn't gentle with herself when she needs help.
I wanted to be better.
And when I neared my apartment at the end of the walk, I saw just what I needed: a cardinal.
For context, I lost two of my grandparents within eight months of each other about two years ago, and my family views cardinals as a sign that they are with us and watching over us. It was a 50° rainy fall day in October, and there was one cardinal sitting in a small tree near my apartment when I got home from my walk.
I knew it wasn't a coincidence, and my eyes filled with tears as I assured myself things were going to be OK. The little cardinal allowed me to reflect on my own strength.
Because of all the sadness I've been experiencing this semester, I know how to be alone and how to ask for help when I need it. I am confident in my ability to take care of myself and give myself space when I need it most. On days where getting out of bed seemed like too much to handle, I still found the energy to take a shower and make myself lunch.
I knew when to ask for extensions on assignments that would wreck my mental health if I pushed myself to complete them on time. I still did well in school, and I checked on my friends often to make sure they were OK, too.
I went through a lot, and I definitely didn't handle it perfectly, but I am so much stronger because of it. This year was not at all like I had planned, but I have grown tremendously from every unexpected situation that this year has thrown my way.
I'm not anywhere near where I want to be yet, but I am proud of myself for waking up every day and trying to get there.