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Reflection of a Temporary Dream

Cantoral 2020

An essay by Giovanni Cantoral, Class of 2021

Written for the Nonfiction Workshop


On campus, during the spring, I would admire the fields of grass and low hanging trees as students walked quickly to class. From inside, I would peer out the window as the sun stretched across the evening sky. In the halls, campus workers would pass through during class hours, quickly walking to get tasks completed. Every day it was different while remaining the same, the same faces but different motions. The catering service that serves our campus would prep food stations every other day, and to me I loved these moments. It was quiet and peaceful, no interruptions. I would listen to the mundane conversations where students would complain about their classes, chat about politics, or say inside jokes and laugh obnoxiously. I have always been a shy person, but the company of others has always kept me occupied. I loved the view of outside as I would sit on a cozy chair listening to music as I would write poetry. I forgot how much I enjoyed these calm, serene moments.

Every dream connects to another, every waking moment falls into a new one, everyday fades to a different day. I find it difficult to keep track of time. From when the sprouting sun yawns its fiery orange to when the whitish blob of the moon suspends itself in the darkened night, it feels almost impossible to discern a dream from now.

Quarantine has given me a momentary pause, a time to reflect upon my thoughts, time to reflect upon my reflected thoughts. It is confusing to come to terms with the motionless state of the future. I never thought I would miss socializing so much despite having anxiety.

I laid in bed the other day and spent hours thinking about identity. Our faces are somehow the physical manifestation of us, a painted sheet covering us. It has become difficult to realize that my face is me when looking into the bathroom mirror. It somehow translates to the world that this is who I am, this is what I will be. It is not. My face feels almost barren, no real identity, nothing to identify with. Whisker hair poking from my cheeks; my girlfriend tells me she loves when I grow out my facial hair, I always hated it. My moustache and beard grow for months and it remains unchanged. An amateur peach fuzz or a constellation of stranded pieces in the ominous space of skin. It is strange that our traits and identities are somehow tied to the superficial, to a form that is predestined to us, and it upsets me. It angers me to know how little control I have.

I am afraid of how everything feels out of control, out of my control. I worry that I will not be enough for my future. I feel I lack the necessary skills to succeed. I have never really felt successful or happy with goals I have accomplished. Whenever I do well at something, I think that I could do better. Being in quarantine, I feel that way constantly. Since there is nothing to necessarily do, I am constantly thinking about how little I am doing. I want to do better, but there is no way to do so. I am tied to this rationale, this insecure reality that constantly pokes at me. I am existing in a context with very minimal expectations, yet my brain wants to live to the extremes of my own expectations.

I have been thinking about anxiety and depression lately. I have been lying in bed awake, up until 8 a.m., staring at the ceiling. The bed is pushed against the wall and my body lays against its coolness. The scratches and dents unmask the original paint. My eyes run across the room for hours on end. The ceiling has begun to look like scattered hills on an ocean plain, the landscape shifts and forms into an assortment of unidentifiable shapes.

It feels comforting knowing that many others feel the same way right now. I think people have realized what depression truly feels like. It is not a saddened state or misery, it is the opaque fog that clouds the mind, unraveling the deepest insecurities, only to leave thought in an abandoned self. Despite the rampaging of fear and worry in this current crisis, it is important to remember that even in our most troubled states we are loved. Whether it be the future that binds us, or the people that make us laugh, or the way music makes us feel, there is much of a world to look forward to.

What I miss most is feeling the sense of motion. I struggle at being outgoing but being on campus gave me time to truly find comfort in my reserved personality. I would sit alone in-between classes and write poems about the green grass and blue skies; I would find inspiration in the conversations, but now I find it harder to write when I feel there is little to appreciate. I am a natural pessimist, and people inspired me to be more, to do more. I feel overwhelmed and confused, unable to process the words to create something that I love to analyze. I want to shout a thousand words, I want to cry out the exhaustion, I want to feel the humanity that I felt when I would critique someone’s writing because despite feeling so afraid when speaking to others, it at least made me feel awake, but now I wait for this dream to end.