Opinion | Validate your negative emotions


Photo Courtesy of Joe Lencioni

Singer Sufjan Stevens performs at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee on Sept. 25, 2006.

By Ellen Barczak, Senior Columnist

Sometimes, everything sucks. And sometimes, it’s OK to let yourself be sad. 

Our lives have changed completely in the past two months, even if many of the changes are only temporary. Though everyone’s lives are disrupted, as college students, this pandemic is interrupting a period in our lives which was already short to begin with.

Undergrad is only four, maybe five years long, filled with hard work, foundational friendships, self discovery and just so much fun (I’m looking at you, Red Lion). Seniors right now are grieving their lack of closure at the end of these wonderful years, the inability to say a proper goodbye to the people and the place that changed their lives.

It’s not just the seniors who are mourning, though. We are all losing time in our young lives we will never get back. Study abroad programs were cut short, and future ones have been canceled. Internships have been put online, or worse, canceled. Summer jobs will be nearly impossible to find (as if it weren’t hard enough to find one before the pandemic). 

Worst of all, we potentially face a fall semester stripped of all the parts of college that make us love it so: the RSO get-togethers, the bars, the parties, the barn dances any group activity, really. We’ll be able to go to class, but that will probably be all. 

My mom and I like to watch “Today with Hoda & Jenna” every morning with Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager, but I’ve stopped viewing it recently. Honestly, I find their relentless positivity exhausting at times. Not everything is beautiful and touching. Quarantine sometimes isn’t as romantic as commercials would lead us to believe. 

Sometimes during this quarantine, everything sucks, and we’re frustrated and sad and lamenting the loss of this time we can never get back and of the opportunities that may never come again. 

We shouldn’t try to candy coat this bitterness. Rather, we should allow ourselves to validate and process the anguish we feel. Take a day and just let yourself be angry and sad, or whatever you feel. Sometimes life just sucks.

In 2015, Sufjan Stevens wrote the Album “Carrie & Lowell” after the death of his mother, with whom he had a difficult relationship. This work of art explores the sweet sadness inherent to the human experience. No other record seems to capture so well the complicated relationship between grief and acceptance, love and loss, bitterness and sweetness.

I started listening to that album when I was going through a tough time my sophomore year. Ever since then, whenever I’m having a sad day, I come back to it. My friends usually know something’s up when they see it on my Spotify. It’s quite a good system. 

If you don’t already have a sad album, I suggest you find one, or use the one I’ve recommended. Your negative feelings at this time are indeed valid, even if your physical/financial wellbeing is unaffected by this disaster. Sometimes the best way to weather the storm of a bad day is to lean into it, to let yourself stand out in the rain and lament how uncomfortable your wet socks are (metaphorically, of course). 

You are allowed to feel sad. You’re allowed to wallow and be a little moody and angsty every once in a while. We’re living in the houses we went through high school in, after all. Don’t try to sugarcoat it and force yourself to be positive all the time. Sadness can be cathartic.

This will all be over, of course, and will soon be just a memory. For the moment, though, these restrictions and the anxiety surrounding them can feel suffocating. I urge you to record these feelings in some way, for the sake of your future self, and to let yourself feel what you’re going to feel.

So play that sad album on a rainy day, wrap yourself up with a blanket, put that sullen look on your face (from your high school archives) and process how much this all sucks sometimes. I’m sure the next day will be a bit sunnier, and maybe your attitude will be too, after rightfully indulging the previous emotions of the day.

Ellen is a junior in LAS.

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