Throughout college, I was asked multiple times to imagine the second semester of my senior year. Whether it was a way to comfort me as a nervous freshman or a meditation exercise during my third year of RA training, I conjured up the same cliche vision time after time. Images of my friends and I going crazy during senior week, lazy afternoons on the quad and graduation caps carelessly thrown in the air flashed through my head. I pictured my last time attending end-of-the-year student leadership ceremonies, excited to celebrate the fruit of my college passions.
In reality, the most significant moment of my last semester was quite different. While cutting drywall in New Orleans on a spring break service trip, I received an email saying that the rapid spread of the pandemic COVID19 required our school to go online for the rest of the semester.
Any part of that last sentence would have surprised 18-year-old me, but even the night before I left for New Orleans I never would have guessed I was experiencing life as I knew it at Emmanuel for the last time. I’ve felt a whirlwind of emotions after transitioning home in such a short amount of time, but the most bizarre part is that my story isn’t unique at all.
Across the country colleges are going online, residence halls are closing and student lives are being uprooted. Workers in multiple fields are being put in danger, other people are facing unemployment and small businesses are temporarily closing. Worst of all, people are getting seriously sick and dying. The world is rapidly changing, and the outcome of this story depends on the actions of communities from every corner of it.
On my Alternative Spring Break trip, we spent a lot of time participating in reflections. Two themes popped up continuously during these thoughtful moments. The first was that everything happens for a reason. On a global scale, this pandemic is exposing huge flaws in our healthcare system and major economic vulnerabilities. People have also noticed environmental improvements resulting from quarantine and social distancing. The circumstances causing this are horrible but do show us how different human systems and habits impact different parts of our environment. This can help point us to potential solutions. Ideally, the lessons we learn from how Coronavirus spread will also prevent something like this from happening in the future.
On a personal level, leaving school with little closure has been disappointing, but all I can do is make the most of it. I feel fortunate that my classes and internships can be done remotely and that I have a safe and loving home to go to. I am seizing this opportunity to slow down and enjoy time with my family before I enter the unpredictable world of postgrad life. I’m reading, writing up a storm, setting up a #WFH space and enjoying lots of walks with my 11-year-old yellow lab.
The second theme we discussed a lot on my trip was focusing on the things we have control over during difficult times. For the world, this means practicing quarantine and social distancing as much as possible, using this unique time to get in touch with ourselves creatively and spiritually and supporting each other as best we can. For me, this will always remind me of what happened after my service group received the news that our school was online for the rest of the semester. We stood in a circle, shed some tears and decided to focus on what we had control over: our attitudes and ability to keep serving. We dusted ourselves off, got back to building the house we were working on and provided endless comfort and support for each other for remainder of the trip. This is something I’ll never forget.
I hope everyone is staying safe and staying HOME. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. As always, feel free to comment your thoughts and what is keeping you happy during these challenges.