She misses her home despite never really leaving it. She’s meeting her partner for a group project. When they arrive—20 minutes late—they complain about the weather. The sky is gray and dismal and it hasn’t made up its mind whether or not it’s going to rain yet. “I mean, I’m from Ohio,” they say, “but it’s worse here.”
She wonders how different it is in Ohio. “I’m from the Midwest, too,” she says.
“Oh, so you get it.”
“Yeah. I guess so.” But she can’t get enough of the dreariness, for some reason. The humidity, the overcast sky, they help her focus, remind her of chilly spring days at home on the soccer fields. She opens all her windows as wide as she can and sits by the shelf at the end of her bed with its plants and seashells and other miscellany. She hopes and hopes and hopes for rain.
It’s a kind of fog in her head. Sometimes she’s all lit up, dialed in, hyper-focused on whatever she’s doing. This happens most often in the lab where her student group conducts their research, five- or six-hour chunks of pure, distilled concentration. But most other times everything shows up hazy, something bordering real but not quite there, like she can just float alongside and observe herself in the world instead. It happens emotionally, too. She catches herself apathetic, withdrawing from her peers in times when she should likely be reaching out to them. In the midst of this, though, she finds moments of both extremes. Unadulterated joy when her favorite soccer team scores what will be the winning goal. Gut-wrenching sadness when she’s forced to say goodbye to an old friend over video call.
“Don’t leave,” her friend whines.
“I have to,” she says dully. “The dining hall is closing soon.”
And after that, what? Certainly not any further rest and relaxation, not when there’s so much work to be done. She’s been putting it off for long enough already. A math class she’s barely staying afloat in, scientific papers to read for a course she’s not even taking, data left uncalibrated and unfinished and baring its teeth in the face of a deadline.
For a moment, anxiety has her in its jaws, grips her tight. It’s too much. It’s too much. It says, The world is ending, right here and now, and what are you going to do about it? She stands there with shaking hands for a minute until the slow, liquid voice of apathy seeps back into her head and says, On the contrary, the world is without end. And she doesn’t know which is worse.
But, despite all of this, she’s doing OK, even for her. Everything is a work in progress. Her homework, her research, her own brain. She’s got a single room for next semester, in what’s popularized as the worst dorm on campus, but that’s not important. What matters is that it’s her own space, even if it’s only seven feet wide. It’s near the bathrooms and laundry and with a narrow window overlooking the prettiest of the streets bordering campus. She’ll bring her plants and change her clothes out in the open again and try to build small habits to outweigh what’s left of her old demons. Coping mechanisms for the bad days. She knows it’s possible—no, attainable is a better word.
“When you come home,” her mother says, “we’ll have time for everything.” Gardening and grocery shopping and yoga classes and getting her first tattoo. She’s missed these things and the people she does them with. But there will be time for them all. ♦