May 5, 2023

WISE-ROJAS | Taking Care of You: The Key to “Normal”

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Exiting my mom’s car, I’m standing by the passenger door gathering my bag. “Have a good day at work! I love you,” she exclaims. The moment I begin to pick up my bag, there’s a loud bang. My heart stops. A war of honking begins. A car failed to check their mirrors before reversing out of a parking spot. My leg feels stiff and the bottom of my mom’s car door crumpled like aluminum foil. Shocked, I realized, “I just got hit by a car.” 

After the shock came the laughter and confusion. This is, in no way, a funny situation. I only say laughter because, what are the odds? There was nothing I could have done to stop it. My mom had her flashers on. It was in a parking lot. The guy who hit me clearly had enough time to check his mirrors. Sometimes I feel like my life is just a soap opera. Like I’m the main character, being thrown into all these complicated situations that could only happen in a Hollywood studio. 

Thinking this way helped me accept that “normalcy” was really just a social construct. After all, the pandemic reshaped what society perceives “normal” as. Normal is overrated. Planning is helpful, but there’s only so much planning one person can do. Whether it’s in the classroom or in your dorm, having a “template” for life isn’t the best idea. This template only works if you’re comfortable with uncomfortable change. The only way to know if what you’re doing is “normal” is asking yourself: Is this out of my circumstances, and am I doing the best to take care of myself?

I’m aware that my columns the past semester haven’t been like the ones I used to do (more focused on social issues). My columns have been more like a public diary. I’ve written about being in residential, taking a health leave from Cornell, and openly disclosing how I wanted to end my life. I didn’t realize how much I needed to write about myself until I did. I thought that was abnormal too; possibly sharing too much of my personal life online. However, I realized that as long as I was writing about relatable topics that could help someone else by hearing my story alone, none of it matters if it’s “normal” or not.

Even a Google search for “what is normal?” doesn’t really answer any questions. As a matter of fact, it raises more questions. At one point, my “normal” was ending up in the hospital and having severe depressive episodes. People in my life told me how that wasn’t “normal,” only for me to realize that my normal was different from other people’s normals. It also told me that “normal” should only come with one condition: taking care of yourself. What I was feeling was normal to me, but I wasn’t taking care of myself. Hence it was an abnormality I needed to work on. 

If I were given the task of writing what a normal day during a health leave would look like for me a while ago, I would have refused, stating that taking a health leave wasn’t normal (for me, by my own standards). I didn’t really feel like I had much to look forward to because I had such unrealistic “normal” expectations for myself. Now, I have an idea of what it is. I’m working as a pharmacy technician in-training. I go to work 5-6 days a week, I take my breaks, I walk my dog several times a day, feed him and my cat, make sure all my doctor’s appointments are set to go, watch Grey’s Anatomy, feel my feelings when I need to, wash my clothes, take a shower, fangirl over Taylor Swift, text my friends. You get the gist. 

I recently finalized my return to Cornell for fall 2023. I expect my “normal” when I return to be something similar, just with classes in it. I’ve stopped trying to plan out my life to a tee. Yes, I love Google Calendar and schedules, but I’m also okay with the fact that something might change it. I realize it’s no longer “normal” to do school and work with no time for yourself. Time with other people is valuable. 

I don’t try to create a “normal” anymore, because as long as I’m taking care of myself, that’s the best I can do. I create my own “normal” that’s not harmful. It took me years to get to this point. Coming back to Cornell from a health leave feels like a new start. I’m picking up where I left off, but with a new perspective. You never know when something can change in the blink of an eye, with no factors in your control. You could get into a car accident even with a clean driving record because someone chose to drive drunk. You could get hit by a car, even when you’re a pedestrian who never jaywalks because someone forgot to look at the road. I got hit by a car, and I’m here to tell the tale. I’ve also been drowned alive by my own emotions and situations, and I’m still here to tell the tale. My “normal” is my own story being written. The same goes for you. 

Daniela Wise-Rojas is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. She served as Dining Editor on the 140th Editorial Board. Anything But MunDANIties runs periodically this semester.