Butler Swan Song: Grown

(Pictured in blue) I patch together what I can recall about my kindergarten graduation, a distant memory. However, my upcoming graduation may stay as a framed photograph, recognizing the growth I made throughout the years.

Dominika Butler

(Pictured in blue) I patch together what I can recall about my kindergarten graduation, a distant memory. However, my upcoming graduation may stay as a framed photograph, recognizing the growth I made throughout the years.

Dominika Butler, A&E Copy Editor

My brain is a continuous cycle of inconsistent flow. The ball starts rolling, yet it fumbles and begins to fall apart, barely reaching the end. 

Without sounding cliché, the pandemic HAS changed my life. It’s almost like a kick into the right direction, waking me up before reaching adulthood. 

Before the pandemic, I was your typical shut-in teenager who wore black every single day, had dyed hair that changed every season, and screamed at adults who just called it a phase (who knew they were right). Sitting in my room, blasting the early 2010 hits, I never realized how much I closed off my personal thoughts or feelings. My brain has been so congested with fogging past trauma or difficult times. With my hair up in a horribly made curly bun, I thought that my life was put together. High school was just another hurdle to get over, not a big deal. 

Yet, as you know, it wasn’t.

Reflecting on the past is boring to me. I’d rather focus on getting something over with now. However, you can’t be where you are today without reflecting on past mistakes. 

I think a constant mistake I made was thinking that I always had friends. Obviously I do have friends, but I always thought I needed to be constantly seen with at least someone. Being alone or viewed as a loner is a disgrace. 

The confused and lonely junior returning to school during a pandemic didn’t know that it was OK to be alone. I was constantly trying to find someone just to stand with or sit with. I hated being stared at for sitting alone or just eating alone. Why did I hate it? Honestly, I couldn’t think of why. 

Sitting outside on a warm, sunny day and eating away alone with my favorite school lunch item, macaroni and cheese, I began to adopt my loneliness. Although I loved laughing with friends over the quality of the school lunches or bonding over how great something tasted, spending time with myself outside was a great way to take a breather. Yet, the prickling sticks of judgment from students at other tables got under my skin.

Once, I was sitting alone outside, watching “Total Drama Island” on my phone. I heard a group of girls giggle, whispering and staring at me. I overheard one of the girls saying, “I thought she was a creeper following me home, oh look — she’s over there!” 

I didn’t know I was a creep for taking the same pathway someone else did on the way home.

My friends decided to remain virtual while I took the hybrid route. Although I did have at least three friends to hang with at school, barely any of them were in the classes I took. And at the time, they were more-so awkward acquaintances that you have small talk with.

Coming home each day, I dreaded going back to school. I should’ve just stayed online, but the constant distractions and strain of sitting still at a computer all day couldn’t accommodate my educational needs. The overwhelming stress of trying to manage my AP and DE classes was a constant struggle of whether I should accept the late work penalty or submit it at the 11:59 PM deadline. 

With the pressure of home life, school, and personal struggles, my mental health was an uncloggable toilet. No matter how much you push it down, it will only come back up and remain there. 

I did seek therapy, but virtual therapy was honestly not it for me. I never really plan to return to therapy personally unless I am on the complete edge, but until then, it wasn’t for me.

But through that journey, I was diagnosed with symptoms of depression. Not to get deep or anything, but the idea of losing self worth was a consistent one, and that soon altered into a lingering thought. Getting called down to the counselor’s office became an average expectation.

During freshman year, seniors tried to warn that junior year was the hardest.  They were completely right. Junior year was the hardest mentally. It taught me more about myself through the struggles of reality and accepting your feelings, even as a young adult. 

Through hard times, I learned more about self care, burnout, and actually taking a break. I can’t say I haven’t experienced burnout or loss of motivation before, but I never truly understood why it was happening to me. I took time to teach myself how to be a better person, how to care for friends, and how to stand up for myself.

Now in my senior year, I’ve accepted these mental struggles as just a genuine responsibility of growing up. It’s okay to struggle with these moments. It’s just all a part of growing up.