Who Are You?

I’d been a procrastinator since high school, turning in assignments last minute in varying states of completion and passion. At the start of this year, I decided I want to change that. It started simply, with my music review series. As time passed, it evolved into me beginning many new endeavors from an all-consuming social media campaign, to picking up new web design projects, to taking challenging classes. To me, working my fingers to the bone on everything coming my way was progress. It was a triumph, a pattern that I needed to ride out and burn into my daily life. It was worth the delayed gratification of being able to go out with all my friends whenever I wanted – that could wait till the springtime.

And then quarantine hit.

I don’t need to go into too much detail, we’ve all dealt with it. So many experiences I’d been holding out for while I spent all my time during the first three quarters of the year pursuing growth vanished in a flash. As the first couple weeks passed, I thought I was handling it pretty well. I’d adjusted expectations, I was keeping up with work, I was finding time for fun, things were as good as they could be.

Since then, I’m finding more experiences flooding into my mind that I’m realizing I’ll never have again. Feelings of emptiness. Feelings of burnout. Feelings that for whatever reason, in this situation, I lack purpose.

This unending deluge of emotions is a frustrating mix – the disappointment in losing nearly everything I’d been holding out for comes into contact with the stress of a heavier workload than ever before like unstable chemicals, combining only to explode. Each blast more concussive than the last, I’m left on looser footing with every reminder of reality as my daily routine fades to gray.

As I’m writing this, I’m in a particularly low place. For the past two hours, I’ve been blankly staring at my computer screen, trying to muster up some kind of creative energy. The coffee I’ve come to appreciate every morning isn’t giving me the energy it used to, the Lexapro I’ve depended on for nearly a year is waning in strength. I feel as though all the energy I’ve had has gone into work – more particularly, keeping up with assignments and deadlines instead of pursuing work which inspires.

The thing is, the work itself hasn’t changed. What I’ve done for my classes and my job was satisfying to me in Chapel Hill, but now that the promise of a grand payoff in the form of one last month with friends is gone, it’s lost that feeling for me.

Herein lies the problem that I’ve struggled with lately. The situation has changed, but my actions haven’t. Upon losing a source of fulfillment, I didn’t seek out a new one. I haven’t created something just for the sake of it.

When I started my review series, The Breakdown, in September it was for the purpose of creation. When I stepped up for the Envision Carolina campaign in the fall, it was for many reasons, but one of the core reasons was it was a new creative adventure. When I got started rebuilding my website and my branding, alongside another web project for a professor of mine, it was to drive creative progress. When I began work on my first infographic projects and motion graphics projects this semester, you guessed it, it was for another chance to pursue creativity.

In a way, this quarantine has taught me a lot about myself. Maybe not everything about myself, but moreso, my needs. I need to create. I need to explore. I need to push myself outside of the framework of deadlines and assignments.

It’s something that’s been the case with me since childhood. It’s surprising how easy it is to forget your core drives when the world puts you in a new position. For the past four years, my passion for creation has driven almost every major decision I’ve made – but when I’m locked in a house with only my own thoughts for a few weeks, I almost completely lose sight of it.

I remember going into this thinking I was going to be more creative than ever – I had plans for new art projects that would really push my boundaries, but somewhere between the three hour drive home where I was bursting with excitement at these ideas and where I am today, that feeling slipped away.

It wasn’t until my most recent lecture that my professor was able to remind me the importance of not only doing things I enjoy, but doing things that help me grow in a time like this. Without that second component, the things I’ve enjoyed for the past weeks lack staying power. Animal Crossing and Tiger King can only go so far when that’s all you’ve got in addition to classwork which leaves you feeling accomplished, but not fulfilled.

So, what leaves you fulfilled? What’s kept you going so far?

Who are you?

These are always important things to keep in mind, now more than ever.