When I first arrived at UC Berkeley, I wasn’t prepared to juggle all of the things that were thrown at me during the school year. My life had changed so abruptly because I had to make sure my parents were doing well while working part-time at Starbucks and completing challenging schoolwork. As a homebody, I lamented the lack of free time I had and often cherished the occasional rare day of lounging around, but COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, has taught me to be grateful for my once-hectic schedule.
Initially, the workload at UC Berkeley really took a toll on my mental health. During my freshman year, I worked a lot of hours because I felt like I needed the money in order to provide for myself, to make sure that my parents had one less thing to worry about. Now, I fondly look back on those days when we had a morning rush at Starbucks. Sure, life was incredibly stressful, but I had something to do, as well as a purpose that fueled my passions and pushed me to become the best version of myself. My job and school kept me on a productive routine and provided little time to think or worry about external issues, but COVID-19 has thrown my life into disarray, ultimately allowing me to fall back into bad habits and mental states.
Despite not ever having sufficient idle time, I took many activities for granted. I never realized how meeting up with friends allowed me to finally decompress from the day’s stress and how living on campus gave me some fuel and motivation to keep working toward my future and my grades. Even writing for The Daily Californian had become a positive medium where I was able to elaborate on the nuances of being a first-generation student.
Whether I’m emotionally unloading on my friends or through my opinion columns, these outlets have given me the strength to mentally recuperate. It’s taken a global pandemic for me to wish I could simply have my old life back, however stressful it was. It has definitely taught me to be more grateful for the smaller moments in life.
Throughout my time social distancing, it’s been difficult to keep a healthy mindset. The abrupt change to online classes has made me feel cheated out of a valuable semester of my college experience. I miss intensely dodging students passing out flyers on Upper Sproul Plaza. I miss human interaction so much that I feel like when I walk through Sproul every day next semester, I will stop to have a 10-minute conversation with each student trying to hand me a flyer. I no longer want to feel like my earlier workload was a burden rather than a blessing.
There are so many other abrupt changes, such as class workloads not being minimized enough, dealing with family and housing situations, leaving my friends without saying a proper goodbye and not being able to go on walks, runs or leave the house. I never thought I’d be mad about the latter because I enjoy taking my time inside to wind down, but at this point, it’s just depressing.
Getting accustomed to being inside the majority of the time is a tough process, but I’m trying to keep pushing myself. Though I feel unmotivated and as though I’m on an extended summer vacation, I’m trying to keep it going day by day. I’m trying to find motivation through the smallest things that I know will benefit me in the long run after this quarantine. I’m learning to be grateful for getting to spend more time with my family, and in the grand scheme of things, I realize that these burdens on my mental state are only situational. If I keep reminding myself to be patient and wait for the light at the end of the tunnel, I’ll have the stamina to look for that light.
Genesis Alejo writes the Friday column on being a first-generation student. Contact her at [email protected]