Student Stories

Reflection and Resilience

Many of my friends, family members, and classmates have begun reminiscing and reflecting on the ups and downs that came with 2017. And I’ve been reflecting as well, though more about how the first semester of my senior year at Denison has gone so far, rather than 2017 as a whole.

I came across a quote the other day that really encapsulated my personal ups and downs this semester. Oddly enough, I found it in a super dense political theory book we read in my Senior Seminar this past week, but I guess good things often come out of unexpected places. The quote read, “in such an environment, we experience what feel like world-ending feelings, [but] we–and the world–survive” (Bonnie Honig’s “Public Things”, page 79). While in this particular section, Honig was talking about a very specific metaphor for neo-liberalism, this idea was really striking to me: “we experience what feel like world-ending feelings, but we–and the world–survive.”

Earlier this fall, I experienced those world-ending feelings, and now, months later, I can say that I’ve survived. About three weeks into the semester, my serious, long-term, long-distance boyfriend dumped me. On a Saturday night. Over FaceTime. Without a lot of detailed explanation. So, to put it bluntly: it really sucked, and my world definitely felt like it was ending.

We’d gone from meeting each other’s extended families, traveling together, and making big future plans (involving joint leases, joint pets, and literally spending the rest of our lives together) to an “I’ve gotta go,” an ended call, and a black screen. He had been my first “I love you,” the first person I thought about when I woke up, and the last person I thought about before I went to bed for over a year, and just like that, we were done. My heart broke into a million little pieces that night, and I’ve worked really hard to stitch it back up, piece by piece, since.

Sitting here now, it’s tough to think about those initial feelings and dark spots right after we broke up. There were many nights that no matter how hard I resisted, I burst into tears until I could collect myself and get to sleep. I took down pictures, took shirts out of drawers, and threw everything that even vaguely reminded me of him–of us–into a paper bag that’s now shoved in the black hole that is my closet. I deleted songs from my Spotify, stopped sharing calendars, and crossed out reminders and countdowns that didn’t matter anymore. He was gone. It was done.

Although times were really tough for a while, just like Bonnie Honig predicted, the world survived, and so did I. That is not to say though, that I woke up one day and things had magically healed themselves–this is where the reflection portion comes in. Over the last 3 months, I have exerted an immeasurable amount of energy into taking care of myself and trying to bounce back from the very real feeling that my world was ending.

There have been so many moving parts–people, places, phone calls–that have been essential to regaining my resilience this semester, all falling under this big umbrella of self-care. Like fellow SAC member/my good friend Maura said in her post about exam season , it’s essential to schedule self care into your daily/weekly routine. Actively scheduling self care into my routine has been instrumental in my recovery and resilience this semester, and there are so many ways to integrate self care into yours! Check out some of my ideas below:

  • Get lunch, dinner, or coffee with classmates or friends. We all need to eat and grabbing a meal with a friend is a great way to schedule social time/self-care and take care of your most basic needs. Win-win.

  • Phone calls or Face-Time dates with long-distance friends or relatives! Call your grandma and update her about your semester, FaceTime a friend from back home or a college friend who graduated that you might not have talked to in a while.

  • Schedule a counseling appointment with your campus’ Counseling Services (if applicable). If you can’t get an appointment, see if your counseling center offers walk-in hours or if you could even talk to a counselor on the phone after-hours.

    • Denison people, hit me up for more info on our counseling center, but the rest of the world, check out the SAMSHA treatment locator to find a provider near you. In crisis, you can always reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or Crisis Text Line by texting “BRAVE” to 741-741.

  • Start that new Netflix show everyone’s been talking about! Stranger Things 2 anyone?

  • Find something outside of the classroom where you can de-stress and relax, and that you can look forward to every week, whether that’s a weekly hike, an extra-curricular you’re involved in, a workout session at the gym, treating yourself to dinner off campus, a bubble bath, or 50 other ideas here

  • Take time at the end of every day to reflect on a high point (sometimes referred to as a rose or a peach), a low point (again, sometimes a thorn or a pit), and something you’re looking forward to in the near future.

Coming off of my ideas for self-care, earlier this week I had a 90 minute phone call catch-up session with my grandma, whom I am very close to. When I told her I was writing about resilience for this blog post, she passed along an article called “The Secrets of Resilient People.” In a list of eight secrets the author attributes to “resilient people”, Keeping Faith in Yourself is listed as Secret #6, wherein the author notes that “to successfully deal with the currents of life, you have to most of all keep faith in yourself. Know that you have all the resources needed to deal with any life situation. Do not be sidetracked by your mind that tries to make you believe you are inadequate or that you need something from somewhere, or someone, to solve a problem. You don’t.” The most important step in my journey of resilience and reflection this fall has been exactly this, actively believing in and keeping faith in myself.

Brooke is a member of the Active Minds Student Advisory Committee and a chapter leader at Denison University.

1 Note: This book I’m referencing is Bonnie Honig’s “Public Things”, published by Fordham University Press in 2017
2 “Managing Wellness During Exam Season”, Maura Barrett– Oct 29, 2017
3 The Secrets of Resilient People by Gilbert Ross: http://upliftconnect.com/the-secrets-of-resilient-people/, Nov 24, 2017