Dear Braden

Pitching an advice column seems a little narcissistic, don’t you think? There isn’t a guidebook or manual to surviving college and being a 20-something (if you know of one, please send it my way), but I hope this column can help us all figure it out. Look, I’m no Oprah. I’m not claiming to be a life coach, though I do think you can become one online in a couple of hours. However, I do believe that unstable people give the best advice. I procrastinate! I bite my nails! In fact, I’m writing this the day it’s due. God, I should really take my own advice.  

Dear Braden,

Ever since second semester started, I’m finding it harder and harder to be social. I have zero impulse to go out. My friends try to drag me to parties every weekend, but I just want to stay in bed and watch Netflix and sleep. Any suggestions for fighting off the winter blues?

Sincerely,

Seasonally Affected

 

Dear Seasonally Affected,

Have you ever seen the Lars von Trier film Melancholia? It’s a two-hour saga about the end of the world. Sounds fun, right? Kirsten Dunst plays Justine, a woman who is majorly depressed. She spends half of the film in a wedding dress crying on a golf course and eating meatloaf that—and I quote—“tastes like ashes.” Why am I telling you about this bizarre-o art house film, Seasonally Affected? Because every year when winter rolls around and rears its ugly head like a zit on my chin, besides muttering “Winter is coming!” in my best Jon Snow impression, I become Kirsten Dunst à la Melancholia—minus the wedding dress and the meatloaf, of course.

I too, Seasonally Affected, am seasonally affected. My mood is directly correlated to the weather. I hate winter. Hate it. I thrive in the summer; winter—not so much. It’s cold, wet, and miserable. It gets dark outside at 4:00 p.m., and it gets dark inside of me. Despite what anyone says, those “happy lights” don’t work. You do your best just to get by.

I spent the winter of 2014 (yes, that winter. Over 100 inches of snow in Boston!), my freshman year, in my single room in the Colonial building. It was a dark time, quite literally, as I kept my blackout curtains down for three months. I watched all five seasons of Six Feet Under and barely showered. I drank NyQuil with a bendy straw. I’d stay up all night and make collages on the carpet, listening to the same Fleetwood Mac song on repeat. I let strangers into my bed, and by strangers I mean various flavors of Doritos (have you ever tried the spicy and sweet purple ones? So good). I think I ended up gaining twenty pounds! Anyway, you get the picture. Having been to that certain kind of hell and back, let me tell you, no matter how cozy it may be, staying in bed is not the answer.

It’s easy to dig yourself into a hole and want to stay there. Trust me—I get it. And while it’s important to accept what you’re going through, you can’t let it ruin you. Feel your feelings; don’t try to numb them. Don’t drown them in wine, weed, and TV (even if it’s an Emmy Award-winning series).

Self-care is the name of the game. Take a shower! Do a facemask! Get yourself into a bootcamp class, or try spinning, yoga, or pilates! I swear, nothing is better than working out when you’re depressed. Bootcamp is my favorite. It saved my life. You’re running on a treadmill in a dimly lit room and Lil Wayne is blasting and you feel like you’re in a music video. The endorphins are insane!

Get yourself out there, Seasonally Affected. Bundle up. Beat the cold. You’re braver than the snow and the slush and the sleet. In order to grow, you have to ask more of yourself. Challenge yourself and put yourself out there, even if you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself. Oh, and try those purple Doritos.

 

Love,

Braden

 

Dear Braden,

I’ve always thought I was gay, but I started getting feelings, emotional and sexual, for this chick. I backed away too quickly because I was scared there might be something. I’m also scared of commitment, so when she confronted me about how I felt, I couldn’t give a straight answer (no pun intended). We haven’t spoken in months. Do I reach out and make things right? Or should I just stay away and wait for someone new to come along, and hope I feel that connection with a girl again?

Sincerely,

Scared of Commitment (and Girls and Guys)

Dear Scared of Commitment (and Girls and Guys),

I’m going to give it to you straight (pun very much intended)—it’s time to look deep. You need to ask yourself why you’re scared of commitment (and girls and guys). What is it that you’re trying to run away from?

I’m right there with you. I’m pretty inexperienced in the relationship department, but I do know a thing or two about burning bridges. I went through a phase where I was an emotional pyromaniac. If someone confronted me with something I didn’t want to hear, I cut them out of my life. May the bridges I burn light the way. Burning a bridge is equivalent to running away from your problems, except in addition to hurting yourself, you’re hurting those around you. It’s self-destructive and lonely, and to be honest, it’s immature. I’m sorry for sounding so Dr. Phil-ish, but I can say these things because I’ve been there!

 

I think you need to reach out and make things right. That’s what I would do. It doesn’t sound like this person hurt or betrayed you. It’s not fair to cut someone out of your life because they’re making you face something you’re not ready to see.  She was only being honest, and I suggest you do the same. I’m not saying you two should start dating or even hook up, but if she was brave enough to confront you about how she felt, then you owe it to her and to your friendship to let her know how you feel. Keep me posted!

Love,

Braden

Illustration Credit: Taylor Roberts