the loneliness of distance learning

For as long as I can remember, I have been looking forward to beginning college. I’m not sure what it was about college that I was so eager for, but reading brochures and watching youtube “day in the life” videos was a blissful hobby. My high school summers were highlighted with programs on campuses, and I finished my common app by September. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to do (still don’t,) or where I wanted to go (didn’t choose until literally May 1st at 3pm.) But I knew that whatever my plans became, they were going to be the best 4 years of my life. I was going to flourish! Be a new Claire! Meet my soulmate! Or something like that.

Unfortunately, this year has been anything but predictable. I’ve had to change a lot about my habits, and my life in general, as basically everyone else has too. As someone who is extremely uncomfortable with any form of change, frustration is a vast understatement. But in a non-ironic, non-meme way, this has truly been a year of realizing things.

I’ve realized that I thrive off of social interaction in a way that I didn’t even understand before. Yes, it’s easy to tell that I’m open to new experiences and not very shy. Some people call me extroverted and while I care to disagree, the point stands. I like meeting new people, being in new places. These facts make it obvious that a change like a national stay-at-home order would dramatically alter my daily routine and behavior, but I couldn’t have predicted how impactful being in a classroom of one in my bedroom could be.

enjoy this cute flick of me in spanish class ❤ very productive environment wouldn’t you say?

Being alone in my room, trying to grasp as much knowledge as possible from professors on Zoom has made me feel intensely isolated. Sure, I see friends from time to time in small groups, and I still live with my parents. But not being in a classroom with my peers, and not being able to walk on a quad or just down a populated hallway has taken a toll on me. I need to be around others, to bounce material and thoughts and emotions off of people and grow with the curriculum. I am admittedly awful at reaching out and texting people, it’s just a product of me being overly anxious and fearing being perceived as bothersome. I don’t really express my feelings out loud that much (which is a problem we’re working on,) and being alone at my desk makes me feel like all the space I have to expand myself has been reduced to my appearance in a Zoom box.

Being in a social environment is something I need. I can’t learn by myself, can’t teach myself material. As much as I HATE group projects, I need to collaborate with people to feel like I can take something away from the content. Other learners enrich your own education, and the extent of this form of cultivation over online class is a bleak one.

taken on my last day at work on March 15… boy if only I knew I was gonna need more than lysol to get through this LOL
taken on the last day of school before we never went back…missin before school library time majorly (honestly not really but you get the point)

Allow me to get a little vulnerable here. As you can tell, I’ve created this blog as well as a youtube channel fairly recently. These are massive steps outside my comfort zone, but I knew I needed to do it. I was bottling up my emotions, nearly crying in frustration nightly because I felt like there wasn’t anyone to talk to. It’s a bit ridiculous to say out loud, because I’m lucky to have the support I do in my life. But your brain, or at least mine, doesn’t really want me to know that all the time. So that’s why I started sharing my writing, and why I started making youtube videos. I love to create. I’ve been writing for years, and I finally took the step to share some of it with you. I love to read, and I want to tell anyone who’ll listen about the latest Toni Morrison novel I’ve read that utterly confused me. I’m not trying to be famous, or get some type of reimbursement from these things. I create because I like to do it, and you all are more than welcome to watch. Getting views isn’t a goal, but a byproduct. Attention cannot be an incentive to create, and honestly that freaks me out even more. Making stuff for myself rather than for others ends up with a much better product every single time. I do this because I need to express myself, and experience at least some catharsis within these 4 purple walls of my bedroom. And I do it because as soon as I started, I felt myself becoming happy again.

COVID-19 has done much worse than ruin my idyllic version of a first year in college. I sit in the most comfortable chair of privilege to pout over not being on campus when other people are sick and suffering. I’m blessed to be in a situation where I can find things to remedy my loneliness, and to have kind friends and family to reach out to. But that doesn’t undermine mental health struggles, either. Insecurities can eat at you like a parasite, and consume you from the inside. I am very familiar with that, unfortunately. I needed to find something that would allow me to feel like myself again, an outlet to keep me going in this “new normal.” I guess you could say I’ve become the main character in my own life again, which is funny because I usually hate protagonists in novels. Off topic.

Below is a video I created where I got really bored one day after class and decided to make a stupid costume of all my favorite main characters. It’s a really dumb idea, I literally know. But not everything has to be so meta and serve a greater purpose to the world. I did it because I enjoyed it, and put up the posters because it makes me happy to walk into my room and see my favorite things on my wall. And that’s what I’m really trying to get at here. Make yourself happy. Especially right now. Life is….absolutely scary right now and finding joy in small things is something I’ve held onto so dearly. So if I can give some kind of advice here, it’s that. Do with it what you will!

Published by Claire Jackson

20 year old college student who likes to read and overthinks the smallest aspects in any social setting

2 thoughts on “the loneliness of distance learning

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