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Feeling Stuck & The Pandemic: How I Escaped Hopelessness and Found Mindfulness

May 18, 2020

Note: This is an opinion piece written by CU Denver student Julia C. Niedzwiecka, a marketing major in the Business School. The views expressed are solely those of the individual author and do not represent that of CU Denver or the University Communications Department.

If an elusive, frazzled time traveler were to tell me I was going to be confined in my house for half of my junior semester due to a worldwide pandemic, unable to interact with the world outside of my digital screens, naturally I’d call it a bluff (also, a poor use of the time traveler’s time, if you ask me). The harsh realities of the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted life as I knew it and completely turned it on its head. 

When the New Normal Is Not Normal

Soon after hearing of school closures across the country, CU Denver shut down most of its in-person operations and I, along with my wide-eyed colleagues, were left downhearted and dispirited. Horrible headlines started rolling in, full of warnings and hysteria. I was scared for my loved ones and the world. 

I have this particular, pinpointed drive to do well in school. It takes up most of my time, but it has also given me my most cherished experiences and memories. Naturally, the deflection of all that energy propelled me into trying to confront what news media outlets coined “a new normal” (a rather strange proposal once you think about it long enough). But when the “old normal” became a thing of the past, what was so different about this one? 

What we were facing was a sudden shift that left us with shock-induced vertigo. I was furloughed not only from my job, but also from my studies, friend groups, and even mental stimulation. The bombardment of corporate emails, personal emails, Facebook posts, and Instagram feeds all discussing the same thing in a constant stream of repetition started to resemble an almost Sartre-like play manifesting itself right before us. 

Stuck in Our Own Minds

I found myself in what could best be described as a pseudo-existential crisis. Seeing all of this unfold right before my eyes was debilitating and made me feel overwhelming hopelessness. While the world slowly graduated to this “new normal,” I worried constantly for the state of my friends, my academic progress, and, most of all, my adaptability, which is an irrefutable need during times like these. I worried about everyone’s adaptability and if indeed it would be properly employed by all of us affected by these circumstances. 

I felt stuck, and most of my loved ones felt this way. Yet, the deeper I delved into the feeling of being stuck, the more I understood the nature of what society, as I perceive it, has been “stuck” in for such a long time. I was stuck in myopia. My parents were stuck in work-life monotony. My friends were stuck in the grips of digital addictions (#FOMO, if you will). Yes, in the end, I was stuck, we all were. Not in our houses, but in our own minds. We were stuck in our old ways. 

I’d kept up a pace in life that I couldn’t sustain. I feel like a lot of us had, and, when life stuck its foot out, we all took a sobering fall to our knees. Then, I realized that maybe this new normal was operating on a deeper level. In this high-paced society, I’d found myself begging for a moment of salvation. A step back, if you will. And it’s this time of isolation and abrupt change that brought about a new wave of personal growth. 

Gaining Mindfulness

The changes caused by COVID-19 made me and my loved ones fall hard. But in this fall, we gained mindfulness. We became aware of the immense and, at times, exhausting nature of the life we’d found ourselves living. We put aside the direct and automatic day-to-day functions of life and indulged in activities that gave us moments to finally slow down. Spending more time with my friends over the phone allowed me to reconnect and enrich my life. Outside my usual rhythm, I was able to feel unstuck. 

This gave me a more deliberate and truthful understanding of myself. Maybe we should stop chasing things and look instead at just how far we’ve come, and consider the exciting things to look forward to. Life has an interesting way of turning everything upside down. I found that resilience revealed itself through our adaptability, and through our ever-important drive to find the silver lining in even the most challenging of times and the most trying of scenarios.