When I first planned to write this, the world was not in the middle of a pandemic. My topic, getting uncomfortable, also made way more sense. I planned to encourage you to send that risky email, greet the person sitting next to you, and apply for that internship you aren’t totally qualified for. Now that just doesn’t feel right.
In fact, embracing discomfort is the shared battle cry on Twitter right now.
As a junior at Purdue who’s decided to move back home, I totally feel the sting of it. Stay inside, love your neighbor, and do something hard that will pay off later. I’m glad we’ve collectively decided it’s the right thing to do. However, if we’re all voluntarily getting uncomfortable, then what should I make this article about? Good question.
Have you stopped to ask yourself why this feels so hard? For me, it’s the idea that forces outside of our control stepped in and paused life as we knew it. It felt eerily familiar.
In January, I dislocated my kneecap playing dodgeball. (Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it!?) Even though I wasn’t in much pain, I had to take two weeks off everything but going to class and the doctor’s office. I stayed in bed, with the back half cartoonishly elevated to reduce swelling, praying I could get back to my busy life. In the silence created by my patellar subluxation, I gave voice to my thoughts and fears. What if I have to get surgery? Do people notice I’m walking differently? How many knees have I stared at today? (It’s true I spent a lot of time staring at strangers’ knees) Doing the work of emotional exploration made me better off for the next hard thing. Who knew it would be a global pandemic?
If you play your cards right, you can leave quarantine better off too. All you have to do is pay attention. Take note of your thoughts, map out the mantras you’ve been mumbling, and keep track of how you’re coping. For me, it meant doing a lot of research on knees, journaling, and talking to friends who had undergone major knee surgeries. Other times it meant watching an extra episode of Arrested Development before bed.
What could happen if you sat squarely in this discomfort? No matter how difficult, or surprising, or silent it gets, trust that the best way around this mess is through it. Listen to your fear, jot down your thoughts, and take a deep breath. Future hard things—like sending that email, greeting that stranger, and applying for that thing you want—will have no idea what hit ‘em.