It was a Monday night, and we’d just finished reveling in bubble tea and frozen yogurt, so we promised ourselves that we’d get home and be productive. So of course, the three of us wound up on a Buzzfeed quiz marathon.
Halfway through “Which Disney Quote Should Be Your Life Motto?” (in case you were wondering, mine ended up being, “Love is putting someone else’s needs before yours”), I found myself on the type of question I’d always dreaded. “How do people describe you?” it asked, providing six options. I hated doing these types of questions, because I’m not sure what other people see me or think of me, but I am sure it’s different for every person, depending on our level of familiarity or whether or not I deem them able to stomach the grossest of my jokes. If I were alone, I’d probably pick the answer I’d hope to hear, but I was with two of my closest friends here, so I figured they’d be able to describe me quite accurately.
“Brave, optimistic, sassy, faithful, caring, fearless. I think you’re all of these. Maybe fearless?”
“Yeah, or optimistic.”
“Oh yeah, optimistic.”
Dutifully, I clicked the box and calmly finished up the quiz, but on the inside, I was genuinely floored that they, or anyone, thought of me as optimistic. Was that really the image I was projecting? I’d love to be an optimistic person, but in reality, I have an incredibly pessimistic outlook. All relationships will eventually be ruined, if not completely, then at least to some extent. Every assignment, every tiny quiz, is a potential to fail. My professors were already starting to notice – three weeks into a new semester, some were already telling me to relax and to take a step back. It surprised me that my new friends didn’t see it too. Maybe I just wasn’t letting my guard down as much as I had thought.
Later that night, I texted one of my friends.
She told me that she thought I seemed so content with my life, whereas she felt depressed and hated her life here and had already cried five times. I told her, “Same. Maybe more.”
One week ago.
I don’t know if she believed me then, but she did now. She must’ve been taken aback by my sudden, uncontrollable tears in a coffee shop, my incoherent texts, my hyperventilating through dinner.
I didn’t really want my friends to find out about my depression or my panic attacks, at least not in this way. Perhaps through description of past experiences, not actually having to observe them in action.
Two weeks ago, I spent most of my free time trying to take care of her, texting her motivational quotes, dropping study time to help her out, and just generally looking out for her. When I introduced her to the glories of The Mindy Project, we spent two hours hysterically laughing before she told me this is the happiest she’s felt since coming to college. I consider that one of my most meaningful accomplishments. I feel a great responsibility to take care of other people, and I desperately want them to not feel depressed, although I’ve kind of accepted it in myself.
I wonder how many people out there are trying to look like they’re living the best lives, but are actually walking around feeling completely hollow. When people talk about hitting the frats and the house parties, it sounds like they’re going out and having the time of their lives. But I’ve been out a few times, and they’ve all been the same. Nothing’s really as good as it seems on the surface. I remember once telling one of my friends that I was thinking about leaving a party because there wasn’t anything to do. He looked at me silently, then admitted, “There’s never anything to do, really.” Nothing’s as good as it seems on the surface. It makes me wonder whether everyone else, or really, anyone else, is holding it together.
Now, I feel a shift in my relationship with her, and with others too. I don’t hear, “How are you so chill and content?” anymore – just, “Why are you crying all the time?”