The college years are universally considered one of the high points of peoples’ lives, and for good reason. College is often the first experience with real freedom: no one telling you to clean your room, do your homework, or go to sleep already. Additionally, you’re surrounded by masses of people the same age as you who are all excited to be learning in classes and working toward their future careers. College is also the time where most people turn 21 and going out for a casual drink with friends becomes a reality. For most people, it’s the perfect combination of freedom and a manageable amount of responsibility. Like many others, I consider my college years some of the best of my life, but that doesn’t mean that things didn’t go horribly wrong.
The other day a friend and I were reminiscing about our sophomore year of college and along with the amazing memories came the memories of the times we really struggled. While we were all joining clubs, pursuing our first co-ops, and exploring our individual interests, my parents were getting divorced. While I wasn’t particularly surprised by this decision, it was a stressful time in my life, not least because it was all happening three thousand miles away. The part I struggled with most was that people I loved (my mother, father, and sister) were hurting. There wasn’t anything I could do to take away their pain and I wasn’t there to help with the logistics of their separation, which led to a lot of guilt. At the time it really felt like my family would never recover. Six years later, we have found a new “normal” that I couldn’t even imagine at the time, and we are undoubtedly all in a better place.
Now in graduate school, I’m in the middle of another dark spot. I recently found out that my two-year-old cat I raised from a kitten has heart disease. This news came shortly after a string of unrelated veterinary visits for both of my cats that have racked up overwhelming bills. To make a stressful situation worse, the vet has no idea whether he will do well on medication and live another ten years, or if he will deteriorate quickly and be gone much sooner than he should be. In addition, I now have to remember to give him a pill every twelve hours, which is no easy task amidst the insanity that graduate school can sometimes bring. The logical part of my brain is telling me that this too will pass and that if I’ve gotten through all of the other curve balls that life has thrown my way, I will be able to get through this one too. But there are days where I look at my sweet cat with all of his shaved patches from the numerous vet visits and it really doesn’t feel like I will find “normal” again.
By putting these two experiences next to each other I’ve realized that even though there were difficult times, I still think of my time at Northeastern as some of the best years of my life. Not despite the hard times, and not because I overcame them, but because life is a roller coaster and the downs help us to appreciate the ups and the ups help us survive the downs. And maybe six years from now I will be snuggling with my cat fondly reminiscing about my time in graduate school, both the good and the bad. So for those of you out there who are struggling, and for those days where it’s hard to get out of bed, this is a reminder for both you and me. A wise man once said “what a difference a day makes,” and for the smaller obstacles in life, it’s so true that just one day can completely change your perspective. For the larger battles in life, one day may not feel like much change, but if you can keep putting one foot in front of the other, eventually enough days will have passed that you will have found your new “normal.” So, be kind to yourself because sometimes the world won’t be. Know that nothing lasts forever and that it’s okay to fall down, as long as you continue to get back up, no matter how long it takes.