There is a looming sense of regret that sits right in the middle of my chest. It pokes my arms every day, pestering me to get out of my room, meet my friends, and “live” in a way that would make me seem more interesting. We have stepped into 2021, and yet it feels like our life has been put on one of those repeat telecasts, much like we are just living in 2020 2.0
College has been a very numbing experience. I find myself operating on auto-pilot, hardly making sense, processing what I am feeling each day, let alone acknowledging how far I’ve come. When you start functioning in a certain way, start putting up with deadlines, attending classes, submitting assignments, it all becomes part of a fixed routine that starts to attach itself to your identity. To find yourself at the end of two extremes, either jostling with a stringent routine or vehemently searching for it, navigating and placing your life and all its social interactions have been an indescribable and numbing experience. Every day is about grappling with the thought of losing out on the days you were meant to live out the freedom you were promised throughout your school years. Going out on spontaneous drives, spending hours aimlessly wandering markets all over the city, impromptu night-outs, all were meant to be the small pleasures of your DU experience.
A Day at a Time
I lie on my bed, witnessing days after days becoming miserable: my anxiety meter has broken all records, my interest seems to have wandered off to far off lands which only exists in surrealist visions and getaways, and my mother watches me as I hang in there. There is this constant need to go out and ‘live’ my life, and yet on some days, I barely find myself “living” at all.
This pandemic has given us a lot of things including exclusion and lone. I find myself detached from everyone and everything, and yet glued to this screen of my laptop or my phone. People ask me “when does your college reopen?” and I look the other way, too numb now to grapple with that question.
With third years not getting the graduation they were supposed to have and not having been able to make the best out of their college experience, I wonder if I will suffer the same fate, and so will my batchmates who came to the University with varied hopes, ambitions, and dreams: who only now sit and watch as all of that withers by.
Far Away From Reality
And then there are first-years, who haven’t even experienced college yet and no one knows when they will get to. I see potential and I see all of that fade away into the thin virus-prone air while they sit in front of their laptops (if they are privileged enough) trying to make sense of what the administration refers to as an “online education”. One of the biggest challenges one may have faced as a fresher attending the University online is the pressure to prove their likeability to other people. This aspect manifests itself quite differently offline as conversations and plans have a way of flowing naturally, leaving little to no space for any kind of pretence or forcefulness. Who you are, what you should be, and how you’re expected to be the gap between these three personas seems to become wider and wider as we spend more time away from real existence. Now, both the external and internal worlds have mixed to leave no balance and no actual place to go to when in need of some respite. Life at home is inextricably tied to visualizing your life outside. While opening up things is still not viable, I somehow wish people would remind themselves of the larger lessons these years were meant to teach us. That of slowing down and easing up. Not having to do too many things in too little time and feeling like you’re losing out on all of it. Not much has changed in terms of measuring levels of productivity. These years seem to have hit everyone differently yet it’s as if we are moving far away from all sorts of individuality.
Seizing a Sliver of Hope
While I sit at home, I’ve formed my own set of simple pleasures and little yet significant sources of joy. For homebodies and introverts, it is comparatively easier to find hope and inspiration to continue, especially if you add some romanticization and a stable home environment into the mix. But, things start to become blurred. The hope that you so strongly rely on gets hidden amidst the uncertainty of the future. You’ve imagined a stage of your life pan out in a specific way and suddenly you have to deal with the destruction of that imagination. It is this living in your head, imagining what could have been and what should be that takes an eventual toll. This toll and turmoil persist especially if you see things and people around you progress and live in ways that somehow resemble how you imagined life to be. It is a persistent struggle between privilege and tip-toeing around how morals come into effect in an ongoing global pandemic.
For Lost Time and Growth
We all have had to deal with the loss of a substantial amount of time which somehow keeps piling up. Earlier, I didn’t pay enough attention to lost time as it was often made up for. But, now there is grieving not only for all those days and endless memories that could have been but also for ourselves. It is known for a fact that you can’t possibly get to experience and hold everything in life. Things are bound to come to you at their own pace and when you least expect them. This once again starts to seem too simplistic especially when you operate within a limited time frame to make the best of your formative years.
There is this other thing, though. My creativity helps me breathe, and so I write with all that I have and lay bare all my emotions. I have learnt to cherish every moment and every conversation that I get, even if it’s just in the form of a text or a call because I have realised that that’s all I’m going to get for a while, so might as well hold on to it. And so I dare you, I dare you to hold on to everything that makes your day just a little bit more liveable: scrolling through that relatable meme page or watering that plant or waking up and feeling the sun on your skin, or talking to that one person who stayed by you throughout all of this, and so much more in the form of stardust and pixie rainbows. Anything and everything that can still manage to bring a smile on that face too weary to go on any further and rejuvenate that mind exhausted from deadlines and a failed chance at a “college experience” and everything in between.
And as much as I despise even accepting this, all this time and space with myself has allowed me to grow and sustain myself in a manner that no other space or degree could have. Yes, had I been in college, my experiences and my confrontations would have looked differently but am I willing to trade off finding my voice during the pandemic with the hope of something better? No. I let go of my time and energy, wondering the possibilities and plausibilities, and yet it has only made me more miserable. You don’t satiate your hunger by staying hungry, you do it by the act of going and getting food. And so, if you are an introvert or an extrovert or just a person still in the excavation of finding themselves, find your tether. It can be your family, your friends, or just the hope of meeting your favorite person or having cheese chilly Maggi in your college Nescafe for the first time or just being amid Delhi University’s red walls: surrounded by brilliant minds and a vision to aspire more, dream more, and act more. Hold on, so that when you really get the chance to be out there in the world, you are your most vulnerable unapologetic self, in the most YOU way possible.
Featured Image Credits: Vyamin