Sometime within the past week, I got derailed. On Sunday evening, I felt an overwhelming desire to crumple into my roommate’s futon and devolve into a hot mess of tears. In the time since then, I’ve had an overwhelming sense of sadness — not overwhelming in that I don’t feel happy, but in the sense that even when I have high highs, like seeing Mae Jemison, being accepted into Sophomore College and finalizing housing preferences for next year with my wonderful “drawmies,” I return to this low state of emptiness and confusion. No matter how urgent my assignments were, I could not bring myself to complete them — I’d read the same sentence repeatedly without comprehending it, and when I could get moving, it would be very slowly. My side of the room has become a heap of clothes, books and folders, and I’ve been staying up late, agonizing about my work, but not doing anything about it.
I’ve always spent a lot of time reflecting about how I feel, why I feel that way and how those feelings influence my thoughts and actions. I’ve rarely not been able to explain my feelings, even when I’m sad. My distress was puzzling, though, because I couldn’t attribute it to any one thing, or even a conglomeration of things.
In an effort to shed some light on how I arrived in this state, I decided to start rereading and digitizing my journal. I usually run through a 240 page Moleskine notebook (no, I did not have to specify that I use Moleskines; yes, I am slightly pretentious, but they make me happy) in about two or three months, but given my infrequency of writing in these fast paced months, I discovered on Monday night that I still haven’t finished a journal I started on November 28, 2010. This date coincides with my first trips home and back to Stanford, Winter Break and my evaluation of fall quarter/reassessment of my priorities for the winter, my hopes for 2011 and fears about being away from home for half a year and my development at Stanford over the past five months. I’ve never been able to reread a journal completely, even one from years ago, but this process has been different as I’ve been finding many “clues” and have been able to read my past self as though I were a character separate from my current one.
When I arrived at the end of January on Wednesday morning, around the time when my winter quarter angst began to develop, a light bulb went off in my head: Winter Quarter was something I wanted to be over as soon as possible, so much so that I immediately jumped on board the “spring quarter is going to be so much better” bandwagon and believed that all of my problems would/did go away from the very first day of this quarter. I’ve stuck with that a lot — and, while I am happier than I was last quarter, even in my current troubles, I only realized then how I segmented my life between the quarters, and how naïve that was.
I shared this with one of my best friends — the one with whom I’d resolved to make spring quarter resolutions and who also had an emotionally difficult winter quarter. While I rarely use quotes in my columns, her words were too beautiful not to share. “We wanted to believe in the severance between quarters too badly. Momentum blinded us, protected us. But a constructed narrative can’t register contradictions; once a hole in our story is exposed, everything else displaces itself. We can’t locate the precise moments that produce sadness because the origins are structural. All the shit that I’ve relegated to the past, neutralized with false symbolism, hasn’t evaporated — it undergirds the whole system, hostile and silent,” she said. And it seemed that while one level of my consciousness allowed me to exist in my fantasy world, a deeper level never stopped acknowledging my former anguish and anxiety, caused me this recent depression and refused to let go until I recognized it myself.
“So we were shocked into recognition of winter’s lovely traces. So we’re forced into consciousness. Then what happens now? This time we can’t take refuge in compartmentalization — clearly that was a little counter-productive. But how do we move forward?” my friend asked.
And that’s what I’m wondering now.
I’ve already spoken to my teachers and professors — and one thing that I’ve come to love about the University in the past week is how accommodating the faculty is with extensions and the number of resources available as safety nets. In the worst-case scenario, if I were not able to complete any more assignments the rest of the year, there are structures like taking an incomplete that would not prevent me from graduating on time, from continuing to do well, etc. And though I’m fairly sure this won’t be the case for me, knowing that I could do this takes off a load of stress.
For now, I’ve scheduled an appointment with CAPS, plan to take a mental health day over the weekend by going to the beach with some friends who also appreciate solitude and continue to work on my assignments one piece at a time, but I still don’t know: how do I move forward?
Are you having trouble moving forward? Has your spring bubble been popped? Do you have advice for Kristian, or share his love of Moleskine notebooks? Share any or all of these thoughts and more with him at kbailey ‘at’ stanford.edu.