Column: If you think you're the only college kid who feels lost, think again

Anna Reyna, right, supervisor of the counseling department at The Door, teaches a class on adolescent development at the youth services organization, in New York. New York City is embarking on a $30 million plan to prepare to staffers at social service organizations to screen people for possible psychological problems, provide information and try to motivate them to make changes in their lives. (Seth Wenig/AP)

I recently read an open letter in "The Harvard Crimson" by William F. Morris IV titled, “Dear Andy,” which shook me to my core. In the letter, Morris wrote to a good friend of his, a fellow student who committed suicide. 

He talked about how the two of them conversed about everything from their fears and frustrations regarding life after college to the girls they thought were cute. After Andy left the South Boston Afterschool program they were working at together, Morris didn’t see Andy for a while. He chalked it up to Andy just being busy with other work until he heard the news that Andy had jumped off a tower in downtown Boston. 

Then, a little farther down the line, Morris’ best friend since childhood ended his own life as well. Both of his friends had so much talent and possibilities that Morris simply fell speechless. 

Mustering up the courage to write his open letter, Morris pleads for a solution: our society should be able to talk about the issues of mental health, which has been stigmatized for generations. 
“It is time for us to reconcile with the reality of the world that we live in. It is time for me to say now what I should have told you before: You are not alone,” Morris wrote. 

He went onto explain his own quirks and the unflattering history of his own struggles, which he regretted not telling Andy when he still had the chance. He wished he told him about how therapy and the support of his mother changed everything.

UConn is a place of incredible ambition, education and opportunity, but like any other community, anyone can get lost in the wind. 

With constant work and expectations, many born of our own ambition, I’ve seen myself and other students fall into a constant race against some imaginary competition or finish line. 

I’ve seen the all too often reality of anxiety and stress to the point of exhaustion in the quest to somehow achieve perfection, master one’s future and stay “on top.” I’ve come to realize that you can’t win if you’re chasing something that can never be found.

Through my own experience I have seen pressures mount and have lost sight of the ultimate goal – happiness. Morris mentioned that he got straight As, but that it was never enough keep him entirely fulfilled. 

Ambition is in incredible aspect of many college kids, but if not kept in moderation we can lose a sense of balance and find ourselves in a race against some elusive entity that’s constantly beating us. It’s important that we strive to achieve and accomplish goals, but if we lose touch with the other aspect of our lives, such as our mental health or connection with others, we are doing ourselves a disservice.

We must open to floor to talking about how we feel, to feel less ashamed in needing some time away from the books and more time connecting with others. We should not feel the need to hide our thoughts and struggles from each other in the name of not being alienated, for the great irony is if everyone became more open, we’d see how unified we really are.

You are roughly a 20-year-old college kid. If you think feeling lost is a novelty, I can confidently say you’re misguided in your assumptions.

It is time to de-stigmatize the conversations that show us how similar we are to one another.

Now is the time to understand that the fears of your future, struggles of your past, needs for connection and the stress you might feel are something that should be talked about. We are only human – plain and simple – and one of our greatest needs is to connect. 

To feel understood and not shy away from who you’ve been, who you are and who you want to become are the foundational aspects of living openly, lovingly and without burden. Every person is different and has their unique past and struggles, but the commonalities between us are astounding once you peel back the layers. 


Brett Steinberg is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at brett.steinberg@uconn.edu. He tweets @OfficialBrett.