by Jenna Ranney, Product Specialist
The same thought has been running through my head all week, between Zoom classes and grab-and-go lunches and reserved study hours in the lounge: it’s been a whole year. This time last year we were packing for a spring break that we never came back from, and this year we’re facing a lockdown semester with no break in sight. My friends and I have been passing jokes back and forth about the birthday of the pandemic, the corona-versary, the big milestone that I’m sure none of us imagined reaching. It’s really not something to joke about, considering the tragedy of the past year: the loss of life, of health, of jobs, of freedom. But we’re college students and this is how we cope - we have to laugh in the face of global pandemics and political turmoil and the uncharted abyss that is our quickly-approaching future, otherwise we’ll get swallowed up in it all.
It's quite terrifying to think about the year we’ve had. I’m sure we can all agree that time has felt a little altered for the last year; when everything is put on hold and every day looks the same, time tends to stretch on unbearably while simultaneously not passing at all. Looking at the calendar to see March 2021 seems surreal.
In addition to the losses we’ve all suffered, I can’t help but feel like I’ve lost an entire year of my life. A year of adjusting to college, of learning the skills vital to my future profession, of making lifelong friends or falling in love. I’ve spent almost every day in either my dorm room or my bedroom, and I’ve seen no one but the same few close friends from six feet away since the pandemic began. For so many of us in high school and college, it feels like we’ve missed out on one once in a lifetime opportunities: proms, graduations, college orientations. A million “firsts” and “lasts” that we’ll never get to experience.
It occurred to me today, though, that maybe we gained something too. I may have lost a year of socializing and traveling and finding my place in college, but I gained a year of exploring myself. I learned how much I love fresh air and sunlight - my windows will stay open in warm weather for the rest of my life. I learned new ways of moving my body that make me feel energized, grounded, and more motivated than ever. I learned about a million new recipes and perfected them, and now my friends can’t even tell which of my treats are gluten free! I learned I actually do love spending time at home with my family, as much as I may have complained about being stuck there. I’m not alone in this, either. It’s incredibly cliche, but the last year has made us all slow down and confront our priorities, and I really do think we’ve all changed for the better because of it.
Perhaps the most heartwarming thing about the last year, though, is the love I’ve been able to see between strangers. The measures that I’ve seen most people around me taking to protect each other is incredible. Almost overnight, we all had to shift to a new lifestyle of isolation, mask wearing, and giving up some of our favorite things for the sake of public safety. It seemed an impossible list of changes at first, and yet we all made them to protect each other. It takes a special selflessness to give up what you love in life for the sake of complete strangers. I’ve been honored and comforted to see that selflessness all around me, even among the college aged students who face a fraction of the health risks that most of the population does.
The most hopeful thought to come out of my week of rumination on the pandemic is the realization that I’m about to have my first spring on campus. It may have been delayed a year, but we’ve all come together to make the necessary changes to remain on campus for the whole semester. I’ll finally be able to see the trees blossom on the quad and study for finals on a picnic blanket with my friends. This “new normal” can’t even really be considered new anymore - it's just normal. We’ve worked so hard, changed so much, and sacrificed a lot to get here, but we can’t deny that we’ve brought ourselves to a much better place than we were in last spring.
It’s scary to think of the last year of lockdown, and even scarier to look ahead with so few answers about what the future holds for us. But I have seen enough goodness and growth this last year to give me hope, and I am incredibly grateful for the tiny, hidden blessings that a year in lockdown has brought.