As an extrovert, this COVID-19/Coronavirus ordeal has been rough for me; I know it’s really bad when my good, introverted friends are having issues with “cabin fever” and are starting to go stir crazy themselves. For me, I have found myself holding my breath longing for the days when I could go back and rejoin society, sing in the choir, or get my extrovert energy boost that comes with hanging around other people.
However, my bubble was burst when I got an email from my university saying that my May 2020 commencement ceremony was canceled, due to it being so close to the eight-week social isolation recommendations by the CDC. I graduate in May with a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in public management from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). For the past two and a half years of being a graduate student, I have been daydreaming about having a big, grand graduation party at my church with all the members of the community. Since day one, I daydreamed about having my family visit and planned which restaurants we would go to. Most of all, graduation is a recognition of the hard work that us students have done; the cancelation of the commencement took away my day, my moment.
To be totally truthful; I even had the irrational feeling at the bottom of my gut saying, “Yeah, my university canceled my graduation because they don’t like me as a person.” Now I want to be clear that I know that feeling/thought was completely bogus, but when I got that email, my world — and most of this blog post — flashed in front of my eyes. I was depressed at that moment, to say the least.
Interesting fact: “Self-blame” is a common occurrence when one is experiencing depression. I would even speculate that it is a way that our brain is trying to explain why something happened. In this instance, my brain was trying to explain why my graduation had to be canceled as I was experiencing an acute, self-diagnosed depressive episode.
I know that it’s better to be safe than sorry. I know that there is good reason for major events like sports, school, and practically everything in society to be shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I even fully agree with the cancelation and social distancing to help stop the spread of the disease.
But that statement “it’s better to be safe than sorry” does not make it any easier. Because when people tell me that “it’s better to be safe than sorry” sometimes I also feel like they are saying “You shouldn’t feel sad, hurt, frustrated, angry. You should be happy and with a big smile on your face.”
I want to tell you the reader: It. Is. OK. To. Feel. Your. Feels.
I had to tell myself, this: That it’s OK to feel frustrated, angry, mad, upset, etc. Because these are human emotions. They are meant to be felt. Emotions and connections are what allowed humans as a species to survive the Ice Age and being hunted by a sabre tooth tiger. You should get the metaphor; don’t fact check me.
It is perfectly all right to take a moment and just feel your feels.
Do not let these feelings bottle up because they will just eat you up. I would even say sometimes it is OK to have a little temper tantrum.
Some people might call it “venting” or may say, “I need to vent.” What I mean is let your feelings out, get a punching bag and write “COVID-19” on it and punch the heck out of it. Do what you need to do.
Because it is like a pressure cooker. Sometimes you have to let off some steam before you really explode.
I am the first to admit that when I heard that my graduation ceremony was canceled, I threw a full-blown temper tantrum/venting session. But sometimes that’s what we need to do to stay sane.
I didn’t take my anger out on anyone. I did reach out to my support network and vent to them, but I never made them the cause of my problem. The problem is when you start using this negative energy and putting it off on others. That’s the difference between a child and an adult.
I felt my feels, let it go, and went on with my life!
Chauncey Brandom is a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago and member of Young Invincibles’ Young Advocates Program.