There’s no way to sugarcoat this: this semester has been hard. A combination of personal tragedies, a schedule far busier than I was expecting, and general social and academic adjustments to sophomore year have left me struggling to keep my head above water. I feel like this semester has been a very, very long sprint. Everyone around me speaks in the language of “just two more weeks”, doing what we have to do to get from fall break to past midterms to Thanksgiving break to next semester.
When I was a senior in high school, a close friend of mine passed away. That was my first real experience with death and grief. I spent the week of her passing in somewhat of a daze. I skipped most of my classes. I cancelled plans with friends.I allowed other people to take on my responsibilities that I just couldn’t handle. I let myself rest, and grieve, and heal. In that moment, that’s what I needed. I was fortunate enough to have an incredible support system that allowed me to stop.
Stopping at Duke is not an option that feels viable for me. After 9 hours supporting a friend through an incredibly traumatic experience, there was no time to rest. I left her, and went straight to rehearsal. When I hear about my best friend from home having a tough time, I send her a quick text, and then I go to class. I barely have the capacity to support other people; this semester, I have found that I don’t always have the capacity to support myself. As much as I advocate for the importance of self-care, I have had a very difficult time putting this particular sermon into practice.
There has been no time to rest, or heal, or grieve. “Dealing” with tragedy has meant burying my head in my busy. I have refused myself time to process the difficult experiences of this semester. More than this, stopping feels wrong. It feels like if I take the night off I’m breaking commitments with friends, hurting my mock trial team, endangering my grades. It is so difficult to put myself and my needs first when I feel like I am letting other people down.
I don’t have a solution to this. I am not writing to explain how to deal with trauma in healthy ways. Still, there are things that have helped, such as frequent calls to my incredible parents, CAPS appointments, and forcing myself to get enough sleep.
Learning to prioritize myself isn’t easy. In every way, it feels wrong. This week, one of my best friends at Duke has had to deal with a death in their family. They were stuck, trying to decide whether to drive home immediately or to stay on campus another night so they could attend rehearsal that night and take a midterm in the morning. When they asked me what I thought, I answered immediately. Do whatever you think is best for you and your family. Everything else can wait, right now, you need to put yourself first. When it came to how I wanted my friend to treat themself, I knew that they should be their own first priority.
I think it’s time I take my own advice.