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Sara Brenes-Akerman
A Likely Story

Credit: Sara Brenes-Akerman , Sara Brenes-Akerman

For the first time last fall, I made pancakes but ate them alone. All I wanted to do on Friday nights was stay in, watch a movie and fall asleep. In the morning, I would wake up and not want to get out of bed because of how long the walk to the shower felt. This happened week after week.

Nothing momentous was taking place. It was precisely the ordinariness of it that made it scary.

All of my friends had left to study abroad. In my mind, they had abandoned me to the vast emptiness of a deserted campus where I was left to fend for myself. In short, I had lost my mojo.

I didn’t know how bad it was until I found myself weeping uncontrollably when the first of the 33 Chilean miners was pulled out from a collapsed mine, during the rescue mission that made headlines around the world. I hadn’t cried in three years and prided myself in not being one to give into tears easily. But seeing each miner surface after 69 days underground gave me an excuse to cry about everything else that had been bothering me.

I thought about going to Counseling and Psychological Services but didn’t. Despite being profoundly unsure of how to handle feeling sad for prolonged periods of time, I was afraid that talking about it would only make the sadness more real. I couldn’t afford to be officially unhappy. Instead, I kept waiting for it to blow over, hoping that it would go away any minute and reminding myself that it was nothing more than a short phase that I had to push through.

I tried to think about what I was experiencing rationally. Put the situation in objective terms. Objectively, I was okay. I had a decent GPA. I was young, healthy and capable of humor. In the grand scheme of things, I was golden. But my feelings remained unchanged.

Mojo is a hard thing to define but easy to recognize. You either have it or you don’t. And I did not. Mojo is easiest to detect in small, seemingly negligible occasions. The way in which you react to the grocery store being out of your favorite brand of cookies, for instance.

People with mojo do not let such small matters get in the way of their appreciation of life. The mojo-less, however, perceive it as a devastating event. Losing your mojo means that a layer has been removed between you and the world, leaving you more exposed to prickly surfaces and the occasional carelessness of cookie suppliers.

It is no coincidence that it was during this time that I became a Bon Iver devotee. Listening to “Re: Stacks” and inevitably crying when the lyrics “whatever could it be that has brought me to this loss?” came on became an everyday practice.

I did not want to feel the way that I did, but refusing to accept it only made it worse. This was a problem without an easy solution.

By the end of the semester, the exhaustion that had accumulated forced me to stop thinking about what I should or should not be feeling. I let my guard down and conceded that it was acceptable to be upset and feel vulnerable. Unexpectedly, tolerating the gloominess was the very thing that eventually got me through it.

This year has been much better. But the toils of ordinary life can still catch up with me now and again. “Tuesday night funk” is a term that I have developed to refer to the combination of stress and irritation that usually affects me for a couple of hours in the middle of every week. I deal with occasional sorrow by acknowledging it as best as I can, working with it instead of against it.

It would be disingenuous of me to say that I’m not no longer afraid of misplacing my mojo. I very much am. But knowing that running away from it leads you nowhere has made all the difference.

Sara Brenes-Akerman is a College senior from Costa Rica. Her email address is A Likely Story appears every other Thursday.

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