At the beginning of quarantine, I started a journal. In the pages of my lavender Moleskin notebook, I crammed in as many thoughts, pictures, words and feelings as I could.
The journal is now as thick as ever, and the binding is working hard to hold all of my memories together.
Periodically, I will go through my journal pages to reflect on what has happened over the past 11 months. The days, weeks and months have blended together for me, but my journal shows how there have been distinct moments and changes during this pandemic.
I wrote about my first time wearing a mask in public months ago, which is now second nature to all of us. I documented local and national news. I wrote about my hopes and dreams for a vaccine in my first few entries, which is now a reality. The most recent photograph I put in was of Sandra Lindsay, the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
When I am reflecting, certain memories stick out to me more than others. A journal entry that always causes me to pause when I am flipping through the pages is one titled, “Lehigh things that I am looking forward to.”
I wrote this entry in early May. I detailed all of the things that I was looking forward to when coming back to campus in August for what I hoped would be a regular semester. I had hopes of living in my sorority chapter house again as a junior. I was excited for in-person classes and to bump into people on campus. I could not wait to resume my position as a tour guide and meet families from all different backgrounds. I was even eager to sit at an FML desk for hours on end.
Unfortunately, these everyday events that had once been commonplace did not happen. I have not been in a Lehigh classroom since March. I was unable to live in my sorority chapter house and I did not give any in-person campus tours.
In the grand scheme of things, I realize these are all small losses and I am very fortunate to not have suffered through more loss. Yet, when I was reflecting on these small losses after reading through my journal entry, I realized something. There are so many Lehigh things that I was not looking forward to, but that I miss so much.
I miss going to the Global Cafe in Williams Hall and seeing a sea of people waiting in line during the lunch rush. I miss getting onto the bus and having to hold onto a pole amongst throngs of friends and acquaintances. I miss walking around Linderman’s rotunda on the creaky hardwood only to retreat after realizing all of the tables were taken. I miss waking up for 7:55 a.m. classes, even though I would be half asleep as I walked down South Mountain. I miss the lines at the Mail Center, I miss the late nights at FML and I miss having to run through rainstorms to get across campus.
I was not looking forward to those experiences when I sat down to write about Lehigh things I was excited about. In fact, all of the aforementioned things I miss would have annoyed me or been something that I dreaded leading up to March 2020.
As I yearn for these experiences, it has caused an epiphany for me. Life is not always easy or pleasant. In fact, life has some really annoying moments and, at times, some really horrible moments.
This pandemic has taken so much from all of us in big and small ways. While it is hard to constantly be positive due to all of our lives being disrupted, I have learned to not dwell on the little things that are not perfect. Life has always been imperfectly perfect and I realize that now more than ever. The small inconveniences in life just make the great things so much better.
And trust me, next time I see a packed bus or a long lunch line at Williams, I will have the biggest smile on my face. And I hope that if I see you in those crowds, that you will smile back as well. Because those types of experiences are part of the Lehigh routine that none of us might have ever been looking forward to, but provide a sense of normalcy and community that we may just miss the most.