Kennedi Barnett is a junior journalism news major and writes "Kennedi’s Kaleidoscope" for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Kennedi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I used to wake up every morning to do my hair.
To comb out each tangle, section by section, spray and moisturize it. It took 30 minutes every morning, but I had the energy to do it.
I’d do my hair, make myself toast, grab an apple and even do yoga every single morning.
Despite my mental obstruction, I was always ready to take on the day. I took pride in the fact that with all that I had going on in my mind, I could still wake up every morning and try my best.
Now, I wake up exhausted.
I wake up and my bones feel heavy. An aching feeling starts at my toes, crawls up my legs and sits right between my lungs, weighing me down. I try to eat breakfast, but I cannot because my stomach will not hold down food. My hair is in knots, and slowly is falling out. I haven’t combed it in weeks. I look in the mirror before I leave. Dark circles have plagued my eyes and the lack of sleep seems to take them over. I am wearing the same sweatpants and T-shirt I slept in.
They say in college you can only have two out of the three: good mental health, social life or good grades.
Right now, shamefully, I have none.
How does a person balance good mental health with the pressure to be sociable and have the best grades every semester? Sometimes with a job or two? And multiple extracurricular activities to build a good résumé?
Is it possible?
Not to be a Debby Downer, but I do not think there is a productive way to be mentally positive and have a good social life or good grades.
It’s not my fault, though, it's because the system is set up for this trifecta not to work. The system is set up for college students to take on way more than we can handle and drive ourselves mad striving for an impossible standard: perfection.
This semester, my grades have suffered for the first time. This is not because I stopped trying, but because my mind won’t let me focus long enough to complete an assignment or to remember the answers to the quiz even though I studied for hours. I have lost my ability to be the best and the brightest. Never in my life have I had to drop a class because of bad grades. I am naturally a gifted student. That is a humblebrag, but true nevertheless.
This is out of character for me. Even with anxiety and depression, I have never failed a class or asked for extra help.
Similarly, my days are silent, only answering questions when asked. Despite having social anxiety, I used to have a group of friends I could be with for weeks on end without getting tired of them. Now, I call my mom every single night to cry. I do not talk to many people anymore, including my roommates. This is mostly due to my horrendous living situation.
They never tell you when you decide to live off-campus that your living situation will directly affect your ability to perform, but it holds so much more weight than I thought it would. I am living in a house that I hate with people I feel uncomfortable with — people who are barely my friends.
College students are expected to get — and keep — a job, pay bills, spend hours studying, have stable friendships and still somehow live their best lives. This is all while having the overwhelmingly prodigious mental strength to get through school.
Students are expected to be perfect. We have the opportunity of a lifetime, we are spending thousands of dollars and we must have the time of our lives or none of it is worth it.
“Be positive.” Ok, what if someone cannot be positive? What if their brain doesn’t let them be positive?
“Get out of bed.” What if I haven’t slept in days or weeks?
“Do better on your homework.” But focusing is a chore. It takes focus to focus. I can’t do that.
“Just socialize.” My social meter runs out at 9 p.m. I get exhausted even thinking about talking for long periods of time.
I don’t know what I want to do. But, I know what I have to do.
I have to keep my head up and figure things out, get help when I need to and move out of bad decisions. The idea of having good grades, a stable mind and a positive social life is a paradox. But as a student, I — inevitably — have to become a part of the system.
I won't do this because I want to or it will be good for me, but because I am spending $10,000 a year to be here and there is no way in hell I'm going to waste that money.
This is the balancing act. It’s messed up, but sadly, this is just the way it has to be — even if it makes me feel empty.