the familiar and the unknown

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written anything, and I always have the tendency to write when I’m either bored or traumatized. Because the events that have ensued within the last few weeks have resulted in both extreme boredom and trauma, I decided to do a brain vomit. The ironic thing about all of this is that I have been gradually working on a blog post all about changes since last May, and this definitely has to have been one of the most drastic changes a lot of us will ever experience in our lifetime. So I thought, why not finally post it? But with some adjustments, of course.

One thing to know about me: I’m absolutely terrified of change. I plan everything, and when I say everything, I mean everything. And when things don’t follow my plan, I become anxious and tend to hole myself up in my room until the storm passes. Which is exactly what we’re all supposed to be doing right now, but in this case I’m not exactly enjoying it. Once I get into a routine, I do not want to switch out of it, especially when I’m not expecting it. 

This past year has been all about me adjusting my routine, which has been stressful for me mentally, but is ultimately what led me down my path toward happiness and self discovery. Being away at school has done a lot of good for my mental health and gave me a new sense of self confidence and awareness that I’ve never had before. 

I wrote a journal entry style blog post, but decided that wasn’t exactly what I wanted this post to only be. It’s been very gradual and spread out, but I think it still has some potential there. I really started reflecting on my thoughts about change when I moved out of my childhood home last May, ironically, the day after my high school graduation. It was like a rite of passage, a sign that I was going to breakeven and start fresh. But I was so opposed to moving because my house had always been a constant in my life, and I was scared of what my life would be like if it just wasn’t there anymore. Here are my thoughts from the night before the move:

May 23, 2019 12:23 AM

Tonight is my last night in my childhood home, and I honestly don’t know how to feel. This has been an inevitable change that has been headed my way for months, and the permanence of leaving the house I grew up in for the past 16 years of my life still hasn’t hit me. Even as I was cleaning out my bathroom this evening, I think I’m still in shock.

I think my attachment to this house is rooted in all of the things I have experienced here; things that I cannot even begin to name because I know if I did the list would get long, boring, and irrelevant. The fact that I’m leaving and moving into a completely new house that isn’t even that far away scares the hell out of me, just as basically any form of change does. I am the kind of person who craves routine and planning and structure. When I don’t have those things, my life feels empty. 

My house has always been one of the only constants in my life. I come home to the same place every day, whether or not my day has been absolute shit or absolutely amazing. This goes for all of the days I spent in the hospital, all of the days I came home from school never wanting to step foot there again, etc; but also all of the happy days of good feelings and good experiences. I always had the same place to come home to. 

I think that it’s kind of crazy how so much is changing in my life literally within the same week. I graduated from high school on Sunday May 19, and we started to move into my new house on Monday May 20. It was almost like flipping a switch. I closed the chapter on my whole childhood within the same week, and now it’s like I have to completely start fresh.

But I feel like beginning a new chapter is not always a bad thing. Even though I have been dreading this move for months and months, I am excited to see what this new chapter brings me.  

a photo of my dog, Finn, in the empty garage on May 23, 2019.

A little emo right? Looking back on it, I probably was being a bit dramatic, but moving away from all of those memories and that sanctuary scared me. The move honestly turned out not as bad as I had thought it would be, and I don’t mind my new house. It just felt like I was closing the door on such a huge part of my life, and that was what really scared me. But like everything else, I adjusted to it eventually. Actually, it felt like by the time I was used to the new house, I was moving out of it.

I left for New York City the next day to go visit my best friend, Anna, who at the time had an internship there. It was my first time flying alone and it was so empowering for me to be able to do that. I feel like it really went with the whole mood of the week, and if I hadn’t gone I would have just been moping in my new house about moving. It made me feel like an adult, and helped me see that doing something new and scary wasn’t always a bad thing. This trip really put a lot into perspective for me because when Anna was working during the day, I spent a lot of time alone in the city that I know I want to live in someday. I roamed every neighborhood with my little film camera and just observed. It was honestly one of the most peaceful and self reflective experiences I had had in a while. Just me and the city vibing. And without it, the summer of adjusting would have probably been harder on me.

a photo of my best friend Anna and I in NYC on May 31, 2019. the power duo :’)

After spending the whole summer in a new place, I started college. A whole new chapter, a fresh start, a new environment; it was everything I needed and more. It has been one of the biggest changes I’ve probably experienced in my life, and I feel I’ve grown into the person that I truly am meant to be in the last year. Being away at school taught me so much about myself as a person and about those around me. And in October, I had a break between my classes where I had nothing left to work on, and decided to sit and write out how I felt. 

October 24, 2019 12:28 P.M. 

Wow, that was a time jump. All I have to say is, change is WEIRD. I’m sitting in the basement of one of my favorite study spots on campus, The Michigan League, thinking about all of the changes that have occurred in my life in the past 5 months. Moved into a new house; spent the summer taking photos, travelling, adjusting to the change; moved into my cozy little dorm at Umich with my roommate, Georgia, who I feel like I have known my whole life; met some amazing people, found my people, and survived the first two months of nursing school with a few bumps and bruises along the way. Looking back on it, I think that moving into my new house was a good way to prepare me for the new changes that were coming in college. The first few weeks were tough. I found myself overwhelmed with anxiety in a way I had never experienced before, and missed home, my dog, my family, my friends. I found myself terribly homesick and even debated dropping out and going to a local university because I felt I wasn’t ready to be on my own with all of this new stress. What if I didn’t find my place? What if the classes were too hard and I failed out of nursing school my first semester? And what if I became so consumed with stress that I never left my room to do anything social ever again because I felt I had too much work to do? I wanted to roll up into a ball and cry. And I did, multiple times. But once I passed that bump, I began to feel at home. 

College is weird. Who decided that we become adults at 18? While being here, I’ve realized that I will never spend as much time at home with my family as I have in the past 18 years, maybe not for the rest of my life. Moving away to college is like the beginning of your adult life. Once you leave, you get a job and live on your own either in a familiar or unfamiliar place, and that’s it. The thought is completely crazy to me. How can I be ready for that in just a mere 4 years? 

The freedom that comes along with the enigma that is college creates a whole new world. College is such an unknown full of new people, places, and things to experience. While it’s crazy to me that we are put into this situation at the ripe age of 18 when you don’t really know who you are or what you want to be or what you want to accomplish in your life, that’s almost the beauty in it. I feel everyone should experience it because it helps you find yourself. In being here, I feel I have grown so much as a person. Being on your own gives you time to self-reflect and focus on the person you want to be and the effect you want to put out into the universe. 

The people you meet here also have such a huge impact on your life. While it’s only been about two months, I feel closer to some of the friends I’ve made than friends I had in high school for four years. You experience everything together: happiness, heartbreak, sleep deprivation, stress, any kind of first you can imagine, etc. I feel like I’ve done so much growing up with them that they feel like my family. And they do become your family when you’re missing your real family back home. 

However, even as I jump into this new unknown, I can’t help but find myself longing for some familiarities and my own sense of home in this new place. A few weeks into school, I had to go get my blood drawn at Mott Children’s Hospital which is the children’s hospital affiliated with Michigan Medicine (where I received treatment for cancer for a year). I was weirdly excited to go back because it had been some time since my last visit, and I brought two of my new friends that are also in the nursing school and were dying to see the inside of the hospital. When I walked in, I felt a sense of belonging. Due to all of the time I have spent there, it has become a small home away from home when I think about all the good (and bad) experiences I have had there. Because that’s what life is right? All of the good and the bad and the ugly things all mushed into one extraordinary human experience. 

I was so excited to show my friends a part of my little place. Then today, as I was sitting doing my reading for my nursing ethics class about a nurse who worked on a post-op floor, specifically with cancer patients, I found myself thinking about the time I spent in the PICU and the rest of my time recovering from the surgery that saved my life, but also brought many insecurities along with it. And in a way, I missed it. Weird, right? Not in the sense that I wanted to go back, because believe me, as much as I enjoyed spending time with all of my doctors and nurses and family, I would never want to go back to that time in my life or wish that kind of pain on even my worst enemies, but in the sense that I missed the feeling of being in my little home away from home with all of my people. It’s just the feeling it evokes, and I don’t even know how to put it into words. It was just there at the time, and I miss feeling it. We tend to shrink into the familiar things we love in the midst of change, and I never realized this was something I did until recently. I hadn’t thought about it in a while, and emotions flooded back so randomly and inconveniently in the basement of The Michigan League surrounded by so many other random students who have no idea what my story is or how it affected my life and shaped me as a person. 

And that got me thinking: what life altering experiences have these random people experienced that shaped them? How did it make them feel when diving into the unknown that we call college? And would they look at me differently if they knew mine? Not questions to ask upon a first impression, but definitely some that can be gradually seen through their personalities and mannerisms and passions and interests. How interesting this concept is to me, but I don’t have time to think about it now because my two hour psych lecture starts in ten minutes.

a photo of my friends Katie, Lily, Georgie, Heather, and I on October 25, 2019.

I remember the night before I moved in like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of Coldstone, waiting for my brother to come out with our ice cream when I had a huge wave of doubt rush over me. What if I didn’t make any friends? What if classes were too hard? What if I missed being home too much and dropped out? I didn’t know what to think. All of my friends who were older told me that it was the best year of their lives, but how could it be so great if I was feeling this bad about it? I felt so small, and wanted nothing more than to crawl under my covers and never come out. It was a brand new environment where I had no idea what the heck to expect, but all of my doubts were soon overshadowed because U of M fit me like a glove. It was overwhelming in the best way possible, like there were so many things that I wanted to do and see and I couldn’t even fit it all in at once.

College is the thing that I never understood how badly I needed it until it came. It’s such a big jump, but the best part is, everyone is in the same boat as you are. It’s like everyone is struggling, learning, and living together in this one big heap of chaotic happiness. Yes, the first few weeks can be scary and intimidating, but you’re not alone in your struggle because every other freshman is feeling the same way. I have the best friends in the world, and couldn’t be more grateful for all of the experiences this past year has given me.

As the first semester came and went, I found myself savoring the days I had left a little more. You only get to have an experience like freshman year once in your life, and I hadn’t realized that until the first 4 months flew by. I was so busy all the time slaving over biochemistry, doing photoshoots with SHEI, not sleeping, staying out until 3 AM on weekends, eating terrible dining hall food, having deep talks with friends, and just living. All I know is, I definitely didn’t peak in high school, and thank God I didn’t because college is way too much fun. Moral of the story, launching yourself out of your comfort zone and into new territory can be so good for your well being, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first. New experiences are what shape us into who we are, even though they can be scary and intimidating in the moment. We learn so much from even the smallest things, and I found that I relish in those little lessons. They build me up, giving me confidence for whatever I have to face next. Because in the face of adversity, those little lessons are what ultimately teach us how to handle ourselves and those around us. And although the change may feel unnatural at first, the rhythm eventually comes and soon enough it feels like there was no big leap at all.

First semester was full of self discovery for me. For example, I learned that I am the epitome of the mom friend. I take care of my people in any situation, and can go into mom mode literally anytime, anywhere. High school me was never like this, and I think it’s kind of funny that this trait took so long to expose itself. I also learned what study methods work best for me, and how to balance my school and social life so that one doesn’t over take the other. With practice, of course. 

And so the first semester came and went, with all the memories and new experiences that I had hoped for. Then I went home for winter break and had a realization. 

December 13, 2019 1:33 AM.

I just listened to Fine Line, Harry Styles’s new album and I cried, a lot. Not only because of how amazing the album is as a whole, or even about how beautiful he is inside and out, but about how much my life has changed between the release of his debut album and now. When Harry released his first album, it was May 12, 2017 which was during the final leg of treatment. I remember listening to that album and crying because it was just what I needed to push me through to the end of treatment. It gave me support and comfort and made me excited for what was to come in the near future. I was burnt out, and without it, finishing would have been a lot harder. In the time that has passed between now and then, obviously a lot of change has taken place. I have experienced so much, learned so much, and grown so much. The change that has taken place between now and then has been both good and bad. I’ve experienced a lot of hurt and heartbreak, but also a lot of joy and strength.

And as much as I resent and sometimes unwelcome changes in my life, I know that everything happens for a reason and without these changes I wouldn’t be the person I am today. When I think about how different I am today than when I was laying a hospital bed listening to Harry’s new album, I honestly feel really thankful. Thankful to be alive, thankful to have even had these experiences in the first place (even the ones that hurt) because there are some people who couldn’t. The human experience is a wild one, and individual to every person, but all I know is that without experiencing the things that I have, I wouldn’t be in this position today. I’ve come to be grateful for things like stressing out over school, boy problems, and little bumps in the road because there was a time when these things were taken away from me. I know that sounds cliche, but I am just happy to be in the place that I am today.

an embarrassing photo of me on the verge of tears over the first song on Fine Line in my friend Judy’s basement on December 13, 2019.

Here we go, my Harry Styles obsession peaking through, but honestly when does it not? I feel like I’m in that version of The Lion King where Timon and Pumba pause the movie and make commentary on what’s happening in each scene, but I’m not that great at analyzing bodies of text. I learned that the hard way in English 124 after I’d written my third essay examining Emma by Jane Austen. To summarize, I’m really really grateful for the life I get to live. The fact that I’m at my dream school with amazing friends to live through it with is something I will never take for granted. When I think back to those times in my life it doesn’t feel completely real. Almost like it was just a really bad dream that came and went, and now I’m back in normal life. I was on a pause for a whole year, and it’s crazy to think about all of the strides that I’ve made since finishing treatment. I graduated high school, got into my dream school, made amazing friends, travelled, and grabbed the world by its hand and ran with it. Mentally, I couldn’t be in a better place and I just am really grateful to be surrounded by such amazing people, experiences, and opportunities all the time. Every day is a fresh start, never take it any of them for granted because you never know when your world is going to turn upside down just like mine did when I was only fifteen and felt invincible.

On March 13, 2020 President Mark Schlissel sent out a notice to the whole community saying that umich had cancelled all in person classes for the remainder of the semester and urged everyone to go home. This hadn’t come as a shock to all of us. Many universities around the country had been shutting down so we all knew it was coming, but it had felt surreal. How was our freshman year of college, a critical period of growth and development for us as people, cut almost eight weeks short? I know it seems dramatic, but being at school was one of the best things for me, and the thought of it being ripped away from me in an instant was terrifying. The realization took a few days to settle in my brain, and it wasn’t until my friends and I were hanging out with Heather’s older brother and his friends at their gross little house off campus that it hit me. Everything was about to change so fast. All of the things that were in place for the rest of the semester, gone in a snap. It was so sudden and heartbreaking, my brain couldn’t wrap around the concept. I remembered calling my friend Makayla and immediately breaking down. “Everything’s going to change,” I said, “we’re never going to get this time back, and everything is going to be different. I’m not ready.” 

And I truly was not ready at all. I can handle change if I’m expecting it. Yes, it does take me a while to adjust, but when something is just yanked out from under me, I feel myself hit the floor really hard, and it hurts. I cried a lot that night, and I’m really not much of an emotional person most of the time, so my friends were shocked. But sometimes that’s what you need, a good cry. And my friends, especially my friend Lauren, consoled me that night. Just having them there with me through that moment brought me some peace that I didn’t know I needed. My parents wanted me home by the weekend, giving me only two or three days to pack up my entire life and leave the place that I had come to love the most. My friends and I spent our last night together eating a cake I bought with my remaining dining dollars, sitting on the floor of my little dorm room just reminiscing about all of the things we’ve experienced this past year. Packing and closing my door to the room that meant so much was honestly a traumatizing experience because of the situation at hand, and the whole rush behind the process. I didn’t have time to take my time, I needed to be out. The virus was ramping up, and we were about to go into lockdown. 

a photo of our cozy little room before we started packing on March 13, 2020.
a photo of Georgie and I’s door in West Quad at umich on March 15, 2020.

Unpacking was quite literally one of the most tedious things I’ve done. I hate unpacking from a weekend trip, let alone from a whole year away at school. But I took my time with it because that is what helped me process everything. Everything else was so rushed, but that didn’t have to be. It felt like I was putting away all of the experiences I had at school and locking them away in a chest because who really knows when our everyday lives will go completely back to normal.

Flash forward a few weeks and here we are, still stuck in the house doing our societal duty to prevent the spread of some stupid virus that demands a presence in the world. I feel like overall I’ve adjusted to what’s happening. I’ve always been somewhat introverted, in the sense that I can keep to myself for a certain extent of time before I crave human interaction. But I haven’t left the house in four weeks, and we’re starting to get into insanity territory. And even though this seems like a lot, us staying home now is going to give us a better future. I know everyone wants the summer of a lifetime, but that’s not going to happen unless we ~keep our distance~. Everyone is in the same boat here, we just have to embrace the situation and make the best of it. We can get through this together!! (but at least 6 feet apart, of course).

This is a change that no one had expected to ever come, so handling has been a little weird. Who would have ever thought that we would be locked up in our houses awaiting for a virus to pass? No one has ever been prepared for a change like this to occur, and however you’re learning to cope with it is good. Do what feels right for you. 

But one thing this whole quarantine has taught me is to live in the moment and be more grateful for the small pleasures everyday life brings us. I miss simple things like walking to class in the morning, sitting at dinner with my friends, spending time studying in my favorite coffee shop, etc. If I had known my freshman year would come to an end so soon, I would have basked in those little moments for a little longer. 

With all that being said, I thought I would share some coping mechanisms that I have developed over the past few years while learning to deal with change:

  1. Find the light in every situation. Think about how lucky we are to have a home to stay in, food to eat, and families to be with. If you can look to the positive aspects of your situation, you will find your transition much easier. Congrats! You now have an obscene amount of time on your hands, maybe you can finish that book or tv show or learn something new or practice to get better at something you already enjoy. Use this time to spend it with your family because we will never have this again. Just looking at the glass half full will make your days go by quicker and will give you something to look forward to when you wake up in the morning, or at two in the afternoon. 
  2. Get into a consistent routine. This part is huge for me because, as I mentioned before, I thrive off of routine. At school I had a really good daily routine going, and then when I got home it all went to shit. This routine took me a few weeks to get into, but once I found the perfect rhythm, I stuck with it. Not having classes to actually get up and walk to in the morning, or just places to go at all has really screwed me over in so many ways. My sleep schedule is way off and I miss seeing my friends every day, but I’m learning to deal with this new reality we all have to face one day at a time.
  3. Find things that you enjoy and incorporate them into this new routine. This one’s all about adjusting to your new environment. When I was at school, I found all of my favorite little spots on campus to study or even just walk through. I also joined a bunch of clubs, but found my little niche in two that I loved, and put my energy into those things outside of class. I surrounded myself with good people that I truly loved, and made memories that will never forget. 
  4. Bring things from your old routine and incorporate them into your new routine. Wow, I’m using the word routine a lot, how on brand for me. When I moved into my new house I would always read a bit before going to bed because I always did when I lived in my old house. Or at school, I would always wake up and make a fresh cup of coffee to start the day off right, because when I’m at home I always have coffee immediately when I wake up. By doing even little things like this, the transition is much smoother, because although you are experiencing change, there is still some familiarity there for you to find balance with. Giving yourself those comforts, even if they are small, can be so soothing and gratifying in your new environment. 
  5. Crying is okay. Change is really not an easy thing to cope with, so showing emotion and letting it out really helps release the pent up tension that the stress creates. I cried a lot my first few weeks at school, and the first few days home from school, and the day I moved into my new house, etc. Don’t be afraid to take a moment and let it out. 
  6. Spend your free time doing things you actually enjoy. Go take a walk outside and enjoy the fresh air, work out, read, or spend time with your family or friends. Maybe you enjoy knitting or taking photos! Don’t just spend your time sitting on your phone scrolling through tiktok for hours. By putting time and effort into things that actually bring you joy and comfort, change becomes easier. And eventually, it doesn’t feel like there was any change at all.
  7. Call your parents. This one is more for adjusting to school or a new place. I talked to my mom and dad a lot in those first few weeks, and then as I went on I found that I didn’t need to call them every single day, maybe just a few times a week. But having your parents or family members to talk to about what you’re experiencing helps a lot, especially if you’re homesick. 
  8. Don’t be afraid to tell someone how you feel. Odds are, they are in the same boat or will give you some good advice. Communication is key, and bottling up your stress and anxiety is not going to help you adjust whatsoever. Especially now, when everyone is feeling the same way and venting to your friends can seriously lift a weight off of your chest. 
  9. Get some good de-stressing essential oils and a diffuser. I mean this one is optional, but I love my diffuser, it just brings good vibes and it makes your space smell nice. 

Yes, this whole situation sucks, but there has to be some good ending to it right? We will see an end to this soon enough, even though it’s hard right now. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, we just have to hold out for a little longer and the reward will all be worth it. And to hold you over, here’s a photo of Heather’s nostrils that she begged me to put in here.

all I have to say is, you’re welcome.

One thought on “the familiar and the unknown

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