In the spring of 2020, I guaranteed my friend that her birthday on May 1 would be celebrated with hugs and shared cake. Come May 1, my friends and I all sat in her driveway, six feet apart — clearly, I was wrong.
A month later, I guaranteed my friend, who has a birthday on June 7, that we would be able to celebrate normally for sure. I was wrong again. The same cycle continued, consisting of hopeful guarantees of a normal fall semester on campus, a normal holiday season and a few more birthdays that could have a guest list greater than 10 people.
Somewhere along the way, though, the optimist inside me took a permanent vacation.
Normally, I tend to walk the line between being an optimist and a pessimist. It depends on what day it is, if I have caffeine and my morning choice of music.
However, 2020 really did it for me. I lost confidence in myself and thought life may just be one worst-case scenario after another. I entered my junior year of college thinking it would all be bad.
Just like my previous COVID-19 predictions, thankfully, I was wrong about this as well.
I found that when one door closes, a new one opens, and there were some silver linings to the situation.
One silver lining was that remote school meant I could turn my camera off for my statistics class when my eyes would occasionally break a sweat while trying to do a problem.
Another was that my concerns having to do with my 2020-2021 year-long lease when I left Bethlehem for study abroad became a non-issue after it was canceled due to COVID-19.
Even though my heart was broken when I found out my application for the Spain study abroad program was pointless, I am grateful for the semester I had at Lehigh.
In that semester, there were many experiences that have been standouts amongst my time at college. Spain may have amazing tapas, but I can get a bacon egg and cheese bagel right here in Bethlehem, and it will also make me smile.
While I am certain traveling abroad is unbeatable, I do not know if I would go back and trade it if I could.
Another loss I experienced was the pandemic’s destruction of the typical college social life.
While I thought the capacity limits would feel like being in a prison, it turns out that I actually really liked the select people that were in the 20-foot radius of my apartment. Who knows if I would have become close with them had things been different.
We made the most of it, and by being forced to socialize in such small groups, I probably made closer friendships than I had in the year prior when I would find myself surrounded by lots of people without really knowing any of them.
If I could go back and tell myself that everything would be OK, I would.
The things I had been worried or upset about wound up working out better than I would have predicted. So much time was devoted to thinking about the worst-case scenario that I neglected the idea that might not happen. Sometimes good things happen! That can feel like a radical idea.
Even in the good moments, however, the pessimist still lived inside me, waiting for things to go wrong and expecting the worst. There were applications I very narrowly almost didn’t submit because I assumed things wouldn’t work out, and time was wasted worrying about hypothetical bad scenarios that only ever existed in my head.
It led me to second guess myself and feel uncomfortable when good things did happen. When I got a call with good news, I waited nervously instead of being excited because I was expecting a callback, telling me they had it wrong and misspoke.
As a child, my mom called me a “worry-wart,” and it still rings true.
I know that if I went back in time and showed myself how everything worked out, I would be astounded.
Whether the bad expectations exist in your head or actually materialize into a bad day, a bad month, a bad six months, a bad year — however long it may be — it is not a life sentence. A closed door may lead you down a better path.