College is a remarkable time in one’s life, but it’s hard to see someone you love off to school, especially during a global pandemic.
My younger brother is starting his first year of college in just a few days, and I’m so much more worried about him than I would be under normal circumstances. He and I are remarkably close for being nearly 6 years apart, so I’ve always felt protective of him. Now I have to watch him go off to school by himself and believe that he will be okay.
I know he’s a smart kid, and I know he’ll be successful in anything he puts his mind to. I also know, however, that it’s difficult to adjust to new surroundings and build a support system from scratch. I can’t even imagine how COVID restrictions are going to impact his adjustment.
I remember my first year of college. I didn’t know anyone in my field of study, and it took a few weeks of socializing and going to events with people to find my friend group. They are the most supportive and amazing group of lifelong friends I’ve ever had, by the way. I wound up falling into my group quicker than most, and I count myself lucky that we’re all still close.
Even with a great group of friends and a supportive family back home, navigating college was hard on my mental health. I had panic attacks regularly, couldn’t sleep, and at times couldn’t even leave my bed.
I remember feeling guilty for not making the most of what are supposed to be the best years of your life. But that’s the thing. College is hard. And it’s not always fun. And living with mental illness in college presents a whole new web of challenges. I did have amazing experiences and make memories I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, but my mental health also suffered more in those four years than it ever has.
So the thought of sending my little brother off to school to face that challenge of living with mental illness in college scares me. It scares me even more that he’s going during a global pandemic, and I can’t tell him what to expect. All I can do is hope he takes care of himself and trust that everything will be okay. I know he’s intelligent. I know that he has a very supportive boyfriend who’ll be there for him. I know that he’ll call me if he needs anything. And I know he’s about to start the best, most confusing and sometimes frightening adventure of his young adult life. And I’m not going to let my fear impact his excitement, or mine for that matter. I’m so proud of him for all that he’s done, and I can’t wait to see the amazing things that await him.
Stay healthy. Don’t let fear overcome your excitement for new adventures.