This past weekend, people were probably having a typical Sunday night: plowing through backlogs of procrastinated work, mourning the loss of yet another weekend and preparing themselves for another dreary Monday. As I was doing just this, I checked my phone for the time: one second it read 2:00 AM and the next it said 1:00 AM. After the initial heart attack and serious debate about whether I had lost my mind, I realized that daylight savings had ended. I thought “Oh, right, this is something we still do.”, and went on to try to remind myself why.
I walked into the first day of RUSS001 excited to finally learn the language and culture that always left me in awe. The art and aesthetics I loved as a teenager were typically Soviet or Russian, from Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita to t.A.T.u. I was going to take it freshman year at Penn before my pre-major adviser suggested taking Spanish to fulfill my language requirement, and then to take Russian if I was interested. She warned me of the agony if I decided to take Russian but ended up hating it. I took her suggestion, figuring that it didn’t hurt to improve my Spanish. Now that the language requirement was out of the way, I could have fun. I was ready.
Not so fast.
It’s hard to return from a leave of absence. It’s even harder to come back knowing that you feel worse than before.
Let me explain: I took a leave after fall semester last year because of unbearable circumstances and experiences that rattled my emotional core. I could write an entire book on the events leading to my leave, but this is sufficient for now.
Trigger warning: This article talks about depression.
In a given year, depression affects about seven percent of the American population. With many millions suffering from it, most people likely know someone who is depressed.
There is a stigma surrounding depression, and a lack of understanding from people who don’t experience it. As a result, even when people think they are comforting and helping, they often end up making the sufferer feel more alone and misunderstood.
Some comments come from a good place, but are misguided due to a lack of information about depression. Depression is the result of a combination of biological and environmental factors; imbalances in brain chemistry, trauma, and other things beyond a person’s control can contribute to them having depression. Unfortunately, many people associate depression with grief or regular sadness, and what they say about it reflects that. These comments aren’t cruel, but they are uninformed.
Other comments are quite insensitive and outright mean or rude.
4/8/15 - Pine Ridge, South Dakota When I stepped out of the tiny airport in Rapid City, I felt culture shock; I’ve never seen so much nothing. Now in the car, the yellow grasses fly by in a blur as rock formations roll on like waves. This place is unlike any I’ve experienced, but it does hold its own beauty. As the mist settles on the black hills, there’s this quality about the plains that reminds me of water, a familiar stillness, not unlike the ocean at dawn.
We often talk about a student’s love of learning as being crucial for their success in school. But what about their love of school itself? In recent years, educators have begun thinking more and more about the impact that a school’s feeling can have on how well children perform, something experts call “school climate.” Broadly defined, school climate encompasses “the feelings and attitudes elicited by a school’s environment”. These emotions create a subjective viewpoint for students, parents, and faculty members towards the school that shapes how much they feel tied to the institution.
I grew up with the idea that mental illness wasn’t real. “It’s an excuse,” my mom would say to me, “You’re lazy, so you have ADD. You want to complain, so you have depression.” In a predominantly Asian suburb, this was a piece of common knowledge imparted by our traditional parents. I heard about people committing suicide on the news, but they never looked like me. Everything I’d been taught suggested that our race was not susceptible to this strange, imaginary illness.
This past summer, I came back to Penn a week before NSO to go through PennCORP student leader training. A pre-orientation program for freshmen, PennCORP focuses on getting incoming students involved with civic engagement and social justice work in Philadelphia. Daily workshops and site visits are designed to provide participants with different approaches to service, with the hope that at the end of the program freshmen will stay involved with the communities they encounter.
During student leader training, we threw around concepts and slogans that would be labeled key ideas throughout the program, and one resonated with me above the rest: “Self care is community care is whole care.” The domino effect-nature of the saying was particularly striking to me: by taking care of ourselves, we help our immediate partners, which helps everyone around us. The concept seems simple: a machine can’t function with broken parts.
How do you feel late at night on Locust Walk?
Do you feel like you’re in danger? Do you think your college campus is perfectly safe?
The United States Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.”  Many different actions fall under the category of sexual assault.
Women in college are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women in general—23.1 percent experience assault during their college years, as well as 5.4 percent of men . And scarily, according to a 2015 report, 20.8 percent of female undergraduate students (and 4.5 percent of male undergraduate students) at the University of Pennsylvania have experienced unwanted sexual touching . This year welcomed a new freshman class to Penn—the Class of 2020. With these frightening statistics, it would be understandable for women to feel apprehension about this potential campus danger. However, perceptions of this underlying threat seem to be very mixed within the freshman class.
This concluding post marks my 11th post of this semester for my weekly column, Mindfulness Monday. The two biggest takeaways that I have discovered as a mindfulness columnist are 1) You don’t have to be meditating just to be mindful. Any situation is an opportunity to introduce mindfulness, and 2) nothing is permanent.
My mindfulness journey has surely been a spectacular ride. My role as a columnist has not only allowed me learn and grow as a writer, but also meet so many inspiring individuals along the way. Throughout the journey, I was able to explore the mental wellness community on campus and beyond, as well as document some snapshots of my life through the lens of mindfulness. It was by far one of the most meaningful activities that I’ve ever devoted myself to doing.
In the beginning of the semester, I set out to explore what mindfulness means and how it relates to our daily lives. Although I wouldn’t say that I’m now a mindfulness “expert,” I’ve definitely gained a lot of invaluable insights, all of which have helped me grow and develop as a person. One of the biggest takeaways of my mindfulness journey is the idea of flow– the idea that everything is temporary. And I can’t stress just how important this idea had been in helping me get through the semester.
When we talk about mindfulness, we often associate that idea with nature. And the image that immediately pops to mind is oftentimes that of a yogi meditating in nature. Although we can surely achieve the state of mindfulness when we mediate or do yoga, what I have learned is that we can be mindful in just about any activity, if we choose to.
Mindfulness is a mindset we can use to go about living our daily lives. We can be mindful in the way we eat, in the way we read, and in the conversations we make with others. This means that we are engaged and actively tried absorb ourselves in those moments and experiences. Yet, the beauty of the mindfulness idea is that we don’t necessarily have to be “mindful” in every exact moment. The world is essentially fluid and dynamic in nature, and we are free to both wander and lose ourselves in this world and in our own thoughts. As long as we’re able to find meaning in the things that we do and give ourselves the space to relax and wander, we are mindful.
I’m very grateful that I was given the opportunity to explore this very concept of mindfulness. The simple reminder that things in life come and go has given me a lot more personal freedom to explore, learn, fail, grow, and move on. Whenever I went on Canvas to check my grades, for instance, I was always reminded by the thought that all those grades are temporary. In fact, there is nothing in life that is permanent; there is nothing in life that stays forever. Think winter breaks, embarrassing moments, relationships…etc. There is really nothing in life that is solid or fixed. And that is how mindfulness has helped sustain me throughout the semester. I have learned not to get too attached to my own failures, mistakes, rejections, and troubles. It is also because of mindfulness that I’ve come to fully embrace myself as a work in progress. Instead of striving to achieve perfection every day, I strive for mindfulness. I strive for meaning. I strive to live my life according to my own values and set my own pace.
My experience writing for IMPACT as a mindfulness columnist this semester has surely taught me a lot more than just a basic understanding of mindfulness. It has also taught me how mindfulness is a living philosophy in which every person can define and internalize in their own way. As I conclude my final post, I would like to thank my readers and hope that you all enjoyed reading about my mindfulness journey as much as I enjoyed reflecting on it.
Even though this is the last article of the semester, I encourage further exploration and incorporation of mindfulness beyond the conclusion of this column. I wish you all the best with your finals and papers. Remember, nothing is permanent. Your struggles are temporary. And so are grades.