If you live in the US, you’ve likely heard about the Chapel Hill Shooting, which took the young lives of three Muslim students. It was an act of hatred and homegrown terrorism. Although this post isn’t to discuss how this tragedy should be talked about and the issue of islamophobia in America, it did inspire this post.
On Wednesday- one year since Deah, Yusor, and Razan’s bright lights were snatched away from us – I stood out in a windy field as family members, university representatives, and friends reflected on the last year and the spirits of #OurThreeWinners. As much as I detest the cold and wanted to stay inside while thinking about the beginning of the holy Lent season, I couldn’t not go. Partially to sooth my own spirit, partially to comfort high school friends who had known them for years.
As I walked over to one friend who had tears in her eyes, she said to me”Itza, I’m okay.” At first, I responded, “I know you are.” Soon I changed my response to “It’s okay not to be okay.” We’re often told with loss or grief or personal struggles after some magical, unknown amount of time that we should be over whatever it is leaving us uneasy. If we haven’t reached that point by that unknown, deemed time society looks at us funny.
But we are all operating at different times, with different factors and variants and experiences in our lives that make it easier or more difficult for us to cope and reconcile with what we are enduring. There are some events you don’t simply “get over”. You discover a way to create a new norm; the hurt or anger or fear or disappointment might not be as profound as it once was. Perhaps you are able to live your day to day happily, but there will be days that you aren’t okay. They’ll sneak up on you out of the blue and change your vibes.
When others pick up on those vibes, it’s perfectly fine for you to respond how you wish. There will be times when someone inquires “how are you?” You can respond “Hey, I’m not great, but tell me what’s going on with you.” You shouldn’t have to repress how you feel, but if it isn’t something you want to dwell on or explain, that’s an easy way to change the subject. You can leave it at that. If it’s someone you’re close to and they want to talk about it you can say something along the lines of “I’d love to, but now I just don’t feel like getting into it.”
It’s important to acknowledge when you aren’t okay, because constantly telling that lie and trying to manage your personality under false pretence is going to drive you insane and be a detriment to your mental health. If you get to the point of feeling bogged down, seek help. There is no shame of in acknowledging your feelings. There is no shame in not being happy or peppy or lively all the time.
So whether you’re struggling academically, experiencing issues with your family, having a hard time adjusting to new development in life, or you’ve suffered from a great loss know you aren’t alone. Know you don’t have to have it all together. Know that it is okay to acknowledge your true feelings.
Take care of yourself and live the best life you possibly can given your current positionality in the world.