Opinion: Hope for students languishing in the pandemic

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Many students are dealing with loss of motivation and focus because of online school during the pandemic leading to a feeling called “languishing.” (Addie Blacker)

As a student in her golden years of college, the pandemic has left me feeling quite stuck. I keep making plans to accomplish my dreams but COVID-19 keeps getting in the way.

I have never struggled with depression or anxiety before and have always been a very positive, optimistic person. But suddenly during the pandemic phase where it seemed like absolutely nothing could be certain, I started to lose focus and felt that not much mattered.

I had energy, yet no motivation to use it. I still had my drive to work hard, but I felt aimless. I was optimistic for the future, but didn’t know when to plan on everything returning to normal.

Waking up each day became more difficult because I knew it would just be another day of online classes, virtual work, higher case counts and limited social interaction. Another day where the grand plans I had for my near future seemed way too far out of reach.

All in all, I didn’t feel hopeless. But I did feel quite helpless.

An article in the New York Times titled, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing,” talked about the exact feelings I was having. The author, Adam Grant, discussed languishing: the “forgotten middle child of mental health.” He said the condition can dull motivation and focus and create a sense of emptiness and stagnation.

“It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity,” Grant said.

As I read this article, I realized I was not the only one facing this. Others were also dealing with a loss of focus and effort in this limbo state of the world.

Luckily, I had the amazing opportunity to join the staff of The Daily Universe in December 2020. This new job gave me a brand new push of motivation and having things to write about gave purpose to the monotony of my pandemic life.

But as time went on, with the end of the pandemic nowhere in sight, life began to feel long and draining again.

One day I came across an Instagram post analyzing the Lost Generation, the generation that came of age during World War 1 and the 1918 flu pandemic. The post discussed how everyone came stumbling out of the war and pandemic and were desperate to move on. The 20s roared because individuals were trying to forget all they lost and come to grips with a reality that seemed pointless.

The Lost Generation had no hope for the future and instead lived as intensely as they could while they still had time. They created new styles of art, music and clothing to shout into the void that they lived, they mattered and they were worth remembering.

As the end of the pandemic is approaching, it feels like we are entering a new Roaring 20s. I can see pieces of the Lost Generation’s desperation in the protests and riots from the past year. I see it in people fighting for their lives, the high tensions within governments and friendships, and in everyone trying to make an impact on the world for the better.

Brand new art, music and poetry are being produced to show we are still living and reality isn’t pointless. We matter and we deserve to be remembered.

While several more parallels could be made about the Lost Generation and the current generation coming of age, the post made it clear we have an advantage over them: We know there is a future after this. We know things will be better again. We know there is reason to hope.

I believe reaching out and enjoying genuine human connection is the best way to feel that life still matters. Whether it is calling your grandma, making art, hiking in the mountains or learning something new, there is life still to live here, even in the uncertainty.

Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, shared a similar idea at the 2021 BYU Women’s Conference. She said because of the pandemic, “our hearts are more tender toward one another, and we understand every heart has a hidden sorrow. Everyone is isolated in some way, and we all need reassurance that we’re cared about and that we’re valued, and that we belong.”

Although it’s easy to slip into languishing, there is still reason to hope. There is life to live here, human connection to make and good things to look forward to despite the difficulty.

I echo Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ words from the October 2020 General Conference Women’s Session: “Yet, in the midst of all of this, we have that heavenly counsel to be of good cheer and to find joy in the principles and promises of the gospel and the fruits of our labors.”

As a generation, and as students, we can come out of this pandemic stronger and more resilient than ever before. We do not need to languish anymore. To paraphrase Elder Richard G. Scott, I find comfort and hope in knowing that life was intended to be a challenge, not so we would fail, but so we might succeed through overcoming.

—Cassidy Wixom
Campus Editor

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