The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Mental Musings: What the F*** Is Going On

Graphic by Tess Kerkhof.

by Alanis Gonzalez

Mental Musings explores mental health from the perspective of a low-income city-grown Latina woman throughout her 21-year journey with issues such as generalized anxiety (GAD) as well as depression. Each week, the column will dive into various topics related to mental health through personal narratives as well as guest interviews.

Yeah, I said it.

I know we’ve all been waiting for months to return to our usual revelries, and I by no means am unhappy with our return to campus. (Might I remind everyone that I wrote a whole, lengthy column on the trauma of the evacuation.) I am relieved, excited, and above everything, grateful, to have the opportunity to return to a (mostly) normal life in Grinnell. You’ve never seen a happier woman than myself when I took that first bite of a sriracha chicken bite from the Grill. Ahh, nostalgia. I’m a sucker for it.

But now that I’ve gotten my optimism out of the way, I’m going to return to my original question … does anyone know what’s going on?

I know this is a question that, as a fourth-year, I’m probably supposed to know the answer to, but I think I’ve earned the right to be confused. When I signed up for this whole experience, a global pandemic was not part of the contract.

And I know I’m not the only one. All of us have returned from various living situations, some of which involved living on our own, others remaining with their families, perhaps a back and forth between both situations. Many Grinnellians are returning to the United States for the first time since the evacuation or, if you’re a first or second year, for the first time ever. We’ve grown; some friendships have faded and others have strengthened. And in the middle of all my excitement this week at not having to unmute myself to speak in class, I hadn’t fully processed how exhausted I felt until I practically fell asleep when my head hit the pillow on Thursday. Which, for someone with perpetual thoughts of impending doom, is quite rare.

Life on campus never stops moving. I forgot how much energy and time I expel running from place to place, the run-ins at the grill that kill more time than I perhaps have to offer, the amount of coffee I drink on a daily basis to get through the day. Over the summer, I solidified coping mechanisms, found a rhythm to my madness. I read over 20 books, wrote short stories, got my driver’s license (no Olivia Rodrigo jokes allowed), and got to go to a bar on my 21st birthday. And in the middle of all that, I rested. I allowed my emotions to exist as they were, because for once I accepted my feelings and my mind for what they are, and not what I wished them to be. All this to stay, this past week, I have struggled to find a way to incorporate everything I’ve learned since the pandemic.

Because, dear friends, the answer is not to go back to the way things are.

The amount of neglect I once imposed on my mental health should never have been encouraged by myself or others. Full nights of sleep, healthy and full meals, and mental and emotional rest are integral to being an effective student. The rigorous culture of our curriculum, however, would disagree with me. I have news for you all: no homework assignment is worth overworking your body and/or your mind the way that many Grinnellians used to.

I know all our circumstances are different, and many of us have scholarships that depend upon our academic success. I’m not calling for a complete disregard for academics; I’m just saying: take care of yourself. Do something that makes you happy, even if it’s only for 30 minutes. Be okay with saying no, but also don’t be afraid to say yes. Say yes to yourself, to your body and to that random car ride to Marshalltown that you shouldn’t have made but that just kind of happened (a story for another column).

So no, I have no idea what the fuck is going on, and neither do you. But you know what should happen. If we’ve learned anything, we now know that everything we know could be gone in a second. Spend your time in ways that make you feel fulfilled, happy, build relationships on campus on more than just a mutual enjoyment of White Claws, and most importantly, when it all gets to be too much, take a step back, and breathe.


I don’t know about anyone else, but after writing this, I think I need a nap.

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