Around this time one year ago, I was sitting at my desk in my room at home, finishing a full school day of Zoom classes. As was the case for millions of other students around the world, it was my second semester of online school at a typically in-person institution. While I saw these online classes coming after barely any decreases in COVID-19 cases, I remained in denial of my school year’s fate.
Transferring to Lehigh in the fall of 2019, I had high hopes for what a different college life would bring me. New friends, new opportunities, a new campus… I found all of that until 2020 brought news of the pandemic.
It felt like life was stuck on pause for a year and a half. Now suddenly, with the start of in-person classes again, it’s resumed back to almost normalcy.
The deserted campus I got to know as a sophomore finally seems like it’s coming back to life— just in time for my final year of college.
While I mourn the loss of some of the most prominent and influential years of my life, I also feel that I have a lot to celebrate after some time in solitude.
Not only can we celebrate the return to in-person classes, for the time being, but I’m choosing to also recognize and appreciate the lessons I’ve learned during this seemingly long pause in reality.
Something I’ve always known, but more so put into action during the entirety of this experience, is learning to take advantage of the time I have with my family.
During a typical school year, I would be living on campus with friends—around 50 miles away from home. Although not too far from campus, seeing family was rare.
Suddenly being forced to move all of my belongings back home was a surprise to put things lightly. Online school got old fast. Yet, being surrounded by my family again gave me the opportunity to spend more time with them before I graduate. Although the circumstances were far from ideal, I feel as if I was gifted an extra year with them before adulthood strikes next June.
Learning to fully take advantage of my time with loved ones is a lesson I will carry with me forever.
I’ve also learned to take advantage of the time I spend outside of schoolwork. Being on a computer all day for classes and then assignments eventually lead to burn-out, as one would guess.
When I finally closed my laptop at the end of a long day of school, I chose to step outside of my room, which, at one point throughout the pandemic, became my world. That was a problem that needed to be fixed.
In doing this, I focused mostly on the outdoors. Walking everyday served as an outlet to destress from all things school and pandemic. I’ve learned since then that this is a habit I want to continue.
Now that the danger of the pandemic has comparatively lessened, I want to make up for lost time and try new things, meet new people and explore things that aren’t exactly in my comfort zone. I want to, because now I can.
Above all—a lesson that’s been long overdue—I’ve learned that life is allowed to slow down.
For years, it has been difficult for me to realize this. Being part of the fast-paced environment of a college campus where students are rushing to class and scrambling to finish assignments, I became a product of my surroundings.
Work, work, and more work. There were rarely breaks.
Initially blaming the classes I was in for this lifestyle, amid the craziness that was the pandemic, I later realized not only that it was my own doing, but that there was also a simple solution to the madness.
When I had enough, all it took was closing my laptop.
I recognized that I am my first priority—not my work. Breaks are allowed.
I always felt like there was never enough time in the day to prioritize myself and the things I needed. Now I see that there was always time. I just wasn’t allocating it correctly. Being forced to do things offline helped me learn this.
It’s from these lessons I’ve learned that I have something to celebrate after a year of disappointment and frustration.
So, while we’re finally back on campus after a difficult year and a half, let’s remember what life was like this time last year. Be appreciative of what we have now, but also of what we’ve gained from this time in our lives.