Reflections during a pandemic: A personal essay

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Sometimes, the concept of growing close to something can be anxiety-inducing, whether that be getting close to your crush, close to a deadline or close to the end of an important part of your life. For me, the fear of closeness has always been directed toward myself. When my teachers used to tell me to self-reflect on paper in high school, I always thought about it as another assignment. All I had to do was choose a couple of traits of myself that I had noticed and pick them apart. Later, though, the act of self-reflection became something that I would run away from. Or at least it used to be.

Self-reflection was what I would do at night when I’d toss and turn because I said the wrong thing five months ago or I still hadn’t found a way to fit in with the right crowd at school. Self-reflection was me beating myself up for being a person I never even wanted to be.

I always joke about the fact that I peaked in middle school, and I think it’s because that was the only time I was ever my authentic self. When college started, I found myself obsessing over what others were thinking about me, never truly stopping to wonder if that’s who I truly wanted to be. I know, depressing right?

So imagine my surprise and frustration when I had a moment of realization during a pandemic. Lots of things happened to a lot of people in the last couple of months. There was a point when I thought we would go hungry or that I would lose both my parents, and I can’t begin to imagine what others must have gone through as well. However, if you could ask the person I was in March if she believed that she would grow as a person as a result of the quarantine, she would have laughed in your face and locked herself in her room.

I guess what I’m saying is, I never thought I had a problem. I graduated high school, got into a good school and was alive. That’s all that mattered. Yeah, I got heart palpitations every now and then and yes, I ghosted my therapist last semester, but again, I was alive. 

But as I spent more time with myself away from other people aside from my family, I started to do the thing that had always scared me the most: self-reflect. More specifically, I got to know myself. 

I realized that I had forgotten what made me, me. I had gotten so obsessed with pleasing others and fitting in that I neglected my own self. As long as people’s perception of me was positive, I was doing something right.

When I was in Berkeley, I was around so many amazing people that it was hard to see how amazing I was too. I found myself wanting to be like everybody else but myself.

I’ll always be forever blessed to say that I attended UC Berkeley, but I honestly think distancing myself from there for a while was the best thing that ever happened to me. When I was in Berkeley, I was around so many amazing people that it was hard to see how amazing I was too. I found myself wanting to be like everybody else but myself. I wanted to look like them, act like them, achieve things like they had. Because somehow I had gotten it into my head that I could never be like that on my own. I couldn’t speak my mind with my friends because I was scared they would dump me from the group, and I was too afraid to express myself anywhere else for the same reason.

But the more I got to know myself, the more I realized self-reflecting wasn’t so bad after all. The idea of getting close to our own selves can be so intimidating that we don’t try to do it. I always thought self-reflection involved criticism and harsh evaluation. But I came to find that self-reflection could be anything I wanted it to be as long as I was looking back at myself and learning from my mistakes.

If I ever said the wrong thing in a group chat, for example, my previous way of self-reflecting would have been to think about all of the things that went wrong in the conversation. Surely my friends would hate me now and were obviously talking behind my back. However, I stopped having those thoughts and tried to think about why I even thought I said the wrong thing. Was I really the problem? Or was it my friends? Was I holding back because I was scared that my real self would not be accepted into the group? Instead of beating myself up over a so-called mistake, I started asking myself why I found it to be one in the first place.

And by then, I would usually realize I was overreacting and had nothing to worry about. If my friends didn’t want to accept me for who I was, then they were never really my friends and I would be better off without them. But I had to get over my self-criticism in order to face this reality.

I had to get to the bottom of who I was without victimizing myself. People always say self-care is important, but I never imagined that self-reflection could be a form of care, too.And I definitely never imagined having a period of self-growth and getting so close to my true self during a pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, I miss going out with friends and being a student, but this quarantine has allowed me to become closer to the person I had never bothered to look after. Myself. And if that’s the silver lining I tell my kids about when I’m older and 2020 has become just a horrible memory, then I guess that’s all that matters.

Contact Pamela Hasbun at [email protected].