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I see you. I am you.

| Monday, April 11, 2022

Hi.

My name is Bella, and I would like to tell you my story. A story of resilience, like many of us have, and imperfection. A story without a happy ending, but a hopeful one.

Before I begin, I wanted to tell you that there is so much more to the story than I have the space or the courage to write. I hope everyone can see a little of themselves in the words I write and don’t write.

I remember when I first heard about COVID-19. It was some day in February of 2020, and the disease was spreading like wildfire throughout Wuhan, China. My then-boyfriend was talking about it, saying, “This is huge, this will be life changing.” I specifically remember thinking he was an idiot.

March 13. The day that everything shut down. It was a Friday, I’m sure you all remember where you were when you heard the news.

It’s funny, thinking back now. I have always fancied myself someone that likes to make people laugh, so I spent that Friday afternoon celebrating “the last day of school.” I skipped around my high school — singing and laughing in mocking glee.

They announced that school was canceled for the next few weeks. Teachers warned to take everything that we would need with us, don’t leave anything behind.

Flash forward to the following Wednesday — March 18. Amidst a myriad of unknowns about my future, I was about to find out if I was accepted to Notre Dame.

Although you know the end of the story already, I did not get accepted that day. I found out that I was being put on the waitlist. The future I had envisioned for myself was hanging precariously by someone else’s decision. Not only did I not know what was in store for the rest of the school year, now I had no clue what I would do for the next four years.

The school year kept going. I received bad news emails one after another. My choir trip, my musical, my last dance and piano recitals — all canceled amongst numerous other opportunities that I had waited my whole life for.

I was struggling to hang on. I couldn’t get out of bed. I coped with ramen noodles and binge-watching. I was, quite honestly, a shell of myself. But I kept going.

Soon, things would start looking up. The school year ended, the stress of finals was gone, and I received my acceptance call from Notre Dame.

My summer went okay. I was working a job at my local golf course, where all the old men and I tried to pretend like COVID didn’t exist (in rural Wisconsin, it was pretty easy).

Soon, it was time to go off to school. I remember the night before I left, my best friend Anna and I were sitting on my driveway. I told her how afraid I was, how I didn’t think I could do it. But I did.

Welcome Week came and went. The first few months of college flew by with the excitement of new friends and new activities. I thought I could forget about everything I went through.  But beneath the surface, I was still that same girl, struggling to keep afloat.

Everything came to a screeching halt in early November. I quarantined in the Embassy Suites for 14 days, two entire weeks. You can hear that, and think “wow, that’s a long time,” but for me, it was a lifetime.

By slowing my life down, all the problems that I hadn’t fixed came flooding back. I was experiencing the worst anxiety of my life. I was close to falling apart, but I didn’t. I held on and finished the semester.

During the 10-week winter break that year, I took matters into my own hands. But rather than confronting my demons, I shut them down with (prescribed) medication.

When I returned for the spring semester, the cycle began again. Rushing headfirst into everything, I never took my time to slow down. By the end of the semester, I was more depressed than I had ever been. Again, I fiddled with my medications instead of learning healthier habits and treating myself well.

You can already guess what happened the next two semesters.

Flash forward to now. April 11, 2022. This semester has been the most difficult one yet.

It’s been over two years since my story began, but I’m only now realizing how important it is for me to find a better ending.

They always tell you that time management is important in college, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. Time management can be part of the solution, but being in college and being in your early 20’s is all about figuring out how to prioritize.

I thought it was important to prioritize my calendar, my academics, but I need to prioritize myself.

For those of you also learning this lesson the hard way, I want you to know that I see you, I am you. For those of you always on the brink of falling apart, I promise you aren’t alone, even though the journey feels lonely.

For those of you always pushing everything down, join me in prioritizing myself. Let’s take the hard steps and figure it out together.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Bella Laufenberg

Bella Laufenberg is a sophomore biological sciences major, who likes news much more than organic chemistry. She is also in the journalism, ethics and democracy minor. At The Observer, she currently serves as an Associate News Editor.

Contact Bella