The Poetry Shed

A Virtual Classroom
One Year Later

Dear Juliana

Hi Jules,

Take a deep breath. It’ll all be okay.

I know that’s easier said than done, and I know you always say that to other people without any intention of believing it yourself. This will be a hard year. And that is perfectly fine to accept. You won’t realize the tremendous breath you’ve been holding for the past twelve months until spring of 2021. You won’t realize how depressed you are or how bad your OCD and anxiety are or how many times you had to tell yourself things are better than they were until then. And that is also very much okay.

Things are different now, but also very much the same. You’re now living off campus in a cute little house all to yourself. That’s reason enough to push through the rest of this terrible junior year at home. You finally stopped freaking out about having covid every time you woke up with a sore throat, and you are able to leave your house and see a small circle of friends without having a panic attack afterwards. These are large milestones, even if they seem little now. Because your mind has spent most of its time working at full capacity, worrying and obsessing over intrusive thoughts about this virus. You won’t be surprised to hear that this will take lots of time and excessive therapy to get under control. A good surprise—you’re finally on a higher dosage of Prozac, and it’s working!

You don’t know this yet, but Kat will be in the hospital again. For real this time. The fall and winter months will be especially hard without her. I don’t want to tell you how long she’ll be at inpatient treatment, because it’s longer than you expect. This year has been hard on everyone, and she’s no exception. Know that she feels terrible about putting you all through this. Of course, you don’t let her accept the blame. She’s going through changes, and so will you, mom, and dad throughout this time. John too (even though he goes by Will now). Please just be reassured that even though you tried everything to talk her down a week before she left for school, repeated all the proper self-help lines, cried all the tears, stayed up with her on those late nights, that she will still make her own decisions when it comes to suicide. I want to prepare you in advance that you will read her goodbye letter; you will cry for a week straight because it’s beautifully written but almost too painful to finish.

You’ll discover a lot about yourself this year; you’ll have a lot of pent-up self-loathing and regret that you’ll learn to let go of. You’ll feel varying degrees of crappy each day, but will feel guilty and hate yourself afterwards because there will always be people who are suffering more than you. Above all, I don’t want you to regret how you spend 2020. Most of the time, it’ll be fearful, yes, and draining. But with that comes all the valuable lessons you’ll pick up along the way. The time you’ll be able to sit and acknowledge all the bad parts will be when you’re able to see the light poking through.

Moving into 2021, I want you to look forward to these things: Spring at Salve. Daffodils on campus, kids riding to classes on mopeds once the weather gets warmer. All the open houses you’ll do. How thesis will quickly become your favorite class. Long sunny walks with friends. Stuffed French toast on Sundays from your favorite café. Family visiting for Easter. Actually getting to walk at graduation. All of the above, and so much more that I can’t wait for you to experience.

Senior year of college will be miles apart from where you were in high school. So savor every moment of it, write everything down, take lots of pictures. Even on the days you spend never leaving the house. You’ll tap into your creative side and find new ways to make yourself smile every day.