I’ve always been an extrovert.
When I would get asked possibly the most annoying, yet seemingly difficult question that we’ve all been asked at some point in our lives, “What three words would you use to describe yourself?” my quick response was always “bubbly, outgoing and friendly.” I thought these things to be true to myself.
I can’t say throughout the years that there haven’t been speed bumps where I doubted these qualities in myself. However, I think back to those times and tell myself that I only doubted my personality then because I didn’t feel my best.
Fast forward a couple years.
College is great! I made a lot of friends who I love very much am doing well in school and really feeling like I found my place.
Then a global pandemic hits. Ouch, that sucks! Slowly but surely, things become pretty goddamn awful.
Next thing I know I’m taking my college classes on a computer screen, I’m living in a house alone five days a week and only seeing my father when he comes on the weekends. The only thing I want is to be able to hangout with my friends again.
I’ve never spent so much time in my life physically alone before. I had all this space to myself but have never felt more claustrophobic in my life. This was all the more weird considering I’m a girl from New York City who would actively choose to squeeze into a packed subway car where you can’t move over learning how to drive.
I hated being alone but wouldn’t do anything to make myself feel less isolated. In fact, I kind of made it worse for myself. My friends would try and FaceTime me pretty often, and I would usually not pick up.
I wanted nothing more than to be able to talk to my friends, but when I would get that call, I would want to be doing anything else. I didn’t know why.
Fast forward again.
Summer’s over, it was lovely. Things started to open up again, and I was able to start seeing people other than my parents. I spent a lot of quality time with my best friends from home, but I was so excited to get back to school. I looked past the fact that my education was still going to be on a computer screen because I was going to be able to be back with my friends again. That’s all that mattered.
I moved in off campus with four other girls in my sorority and have loved every single moment of living with them. Having to do online school sucked, but it was OK because my roommates and I were going through it together.
What I love about my friends here is that when I’m with them, I feel like my most authentic self. Throughout middle school and high school, I always tried to be someone I wasn’t to fit in with the socially constricting climates of my schools. At Lehigh I didn’t have to do that — I was happy.
But I also wasn’t.
There would be nights in which all my roommates would be in our living room hanging out, laughing and joking around. I would be with them having a good time and then all of the sudden I need to get out and lock myself in my room.
I didn’t know what I was feeling. Why did I want to be alone? I hated quarantine. I hated isolation. I love being around my friends. Why am I running away from them when I know that they make me happy?
I didn’t understand what I was doing or why I was doing it. I just felt sad, and was even more saddened by the fact that I was doing this all to myself.
I realized that I’ve always had this expectation for myself to be the most extroverted person in the room, and I am so hard on myself if I can’t full that expectation.
When I would answer the “describe yourself in three words” question, I gave that answer every time not because it was actually accurate, but because I thought it was the right answer.
The truth is, though, that there is no right or wrong when it comes to mental health.
During a period of time when people’s physical health has taken precedent to almost everything, we have forgotten that people’s mental states matter just as much
You can be happy when simultaneously sad, and that’s OK. You can even be angry when there’s nothing to be angry about, and that’s OK, too. You’re allowed to feel what you want to feel and not have to know you feel that way.
We’re in a global pandemic. It is most definitely OK to not be OK.