This letter goes out to the version of me that will come to exist in a few short weeks; the version of me that usually appears around mid-October and gradually yet ungracefully disappears around early April. I beg you to take a shower. Get out of bed, change your sheets, take off the sweatpants, eat something other than stale tortilla chips, text your friends back and call mom. Snap out of auto-pilot and take care of yourself. Invest in a light therapy box. When the weather starts messing with your brain, the bare minimum suffices.
Listen to your inner-workings and give that worn-out “Rise and Grind” attitude a break.
Anyone can just look in from the outside and say “You’re a mess girl, are you really acting like this because the sun isn’t out? Are you that much of a delicate daisy?” Giving advice to someone struggling with the weight of living takes very little effort from the one who doesn’t show a sign of struggle. But I know what I go through better than anyone. Looking back on how terribly I handled my seasonal bouts of amplified sadness in the past, I can better understand what would’ve helped me and what I wish someone would’ve told me then. So, I’ll tell you now, future self and anyone who can identify with my issue: you don’t have to thrive in hard times, just survive. Let the usual “rise and grind” work tendencies hibernate for a little while.
I know this song and dance. The weather gets colder, the sun goes down increasingly early, your workload grows steadily and dauntingly larger and your ability to handle this all with a “rise and grind” attitude disappears. You’ll start to resign yourself to your room, where you’ll lie in the dark, practically chained to your bed. You’ll do nothing but bounce between watching cooking videos on YouTube, crafting sad playlist after sad playlist and mindlessly hacking away at your mountain of responsibilities, with none of the passion you once held for your major. Simply ending these bad habits requires far more effort and willingness than you’ll be able to muster.
Currently looking at the future version of me that will start acting like a dying plant soon, I get it. Rolling out of bed will become increasingly harder; the 15-minute walk to class will feel like a yearlong trek through a tundra. What used to feel like a stroll in a sunny park to finish a few assignments sitting on your couch will feel like being a prisoner cranking out license plates, apathetically functioning like a cog in a factory machine to pump out as many papers and content as you can. Your work will turn into a chore instead of the passion project it was in the summer. You’ll convince yourself all your friends hate you, your life is going nowhere, your future career doesn’t exist and that some unseen force behind the scenes has singled you out as deserving of some spiritual punishment. I know the drill. And I know telling you the most optimistic thing I can think of won’t help you. “It gets better!” just doesn’t cut it sometimes. I can only think to tell you what possibly could’ve helped me the last time I dealt my annual brain malfunctions.
I want you to get out of bed, take a shower, eat a warm meal, text your friends back, call mom, say good morning to your roommate/best friend and listen to literally anything other than one of your many “Time to Cry” playlists. Face the day, despite how daunting it seems. You don’t need to grind or “get that bread” at any cost. Just make it through the day with your brain still firing neurons, and keep doing that through these frigid months until you come out on the other side. Talk to someone about what ails you. I understand the irony in that, just a few weeks ago, I wrote an article all about good mental health practices in college. Future me, you know about the resources out there and the difficulties behind actually seeking them out. Do yourself a favor and reach out to them. You’ve always believed that your health takes priority over everything. Just take that first step out of bed and look for help, for our own good.
Saying “It gets better!” over and over won’t do much for you. You’ll just get better at handling it all. The sun will come back to Philadelphia eventually. Going to bed will feel like one nice thing to look forward too, instead of the only thing that matters in your life. Articles, papers, video editing and due dates on top of connecting with friends and family won’t burden you so much as inspire you again.
Life can induce some heavy misery in the coming months, but there’s no use in pretending the misery doesn’t exist or can’t harm you. Accept the good and bad. Accept that you’re struggling under the seemingly endless stream of work and stressors like any human probably lacking in vitamin D would. These things exist, and they suck, but you just have to survive through them. You don’t have to break your back to excel or trade sleep for another page in your paper.