The Ohio State University
Office of Student Life
Buckeye Leadership Fellows Program
April 26, 2021 by
The “regular” routines of a college student have drastically changed in the past year. Every day, students like me do the same exact things with very little variation: wake up, go to class, do homework, go to sleep. It’s an endless loop that has allowed me to develop some pretty bad habits. Habits like leaving dishes in my room for two or three days. Habits like accidentally talking over people in a zoom meeting and then refusing the speak up again. Habits like constantly brainstorming what lies I can come up with to avoid turning on my camera in class. Slowly these habits are beginning to feel like my new personality emerging from being secluded all the time. Because of this, I am constantly upset with myself for not being the same person I was last year and for letting the uncertainty around me impact me to this degree.
During a phone call with my mentor Ben Korte, I remember expressing my concern with my shifting personality and how I feel like I am losing my sense of self. Ben responded to this concern with “it’s hard to read the label from inside the bottle.” Initially, I pictured a lonely cartoon version of myself trapped in a glass bottle, staring at the back of a blank label infuriated by the fact that I didn’t know what it said. Ben, however, offered a more encouraging perspective. He explained that instead of being frustrated that I couldn’t see the label, I should familiarize myself with the inside of the bottle as I was the only one capable of doing that. Instead of trying to escape, I should learn something from the experience. Essentially, Ben was telling me to forgive myself for changing my personality because I was just doing the best I could with the tools I had inside my bottle.
The idea that I should be nicer to myself and assume that my personality will just go back to “normal” once a vaccine is distributed feels overly optimistic. How could I stop being so critical of my own actions when they are the only things I have control over? Perhaps being critical is the part of my disposition that has allowed me to successfully pursue my passions and interests at Ohio State. On the other hand, being so critical about how little I have accomplished in the past semester or how terrible my social skills have become has slowly deteriorated my mental and emotional health. Ben’s quote, and these thoughts, like many other things in my life currently, feel like an infinite mental battle.
If there is one thing that I have learned from my discussions with Ben, it is that life is full of these mental and emotional battles. Having the patience to get through them and treat them as an opportunity will never get easier. But allowing ourselves to change with our surroundings is not a sign of regression but rather a sign of growth