A whole year and a little over a month since we had our last normal day at Florida State University (FSU), since the last normal day in most universities—and schools, for that matter. From then on, we have not had another routine day without having to think about how our interactions could affect each other’s health. We have never had another normal college day where what we did and where we went didn’t have consequences on others.
An entire year has passed, for some stuck at home, others struggling to make ends meet or recovering and grieving from the damage of this disease. Like many, I have spent the past year lacking social and physical interaction from friends and much family. The last time I hugged my grandparents was before June of 2020, the last time I saw my college friends was in March of 2020 and the last time I reunited with my hometown friends was during winter break of 2019.
Before I go on, I feel obliged to disclaim that I am incredibly privileged in the making of this article and all the ideas expressed in them. Even though it has been an incredible struggle for me, I am fortunate to say it only compromised my social and academic life during this past year, as many others have had to sacrifice much greater things and have had experienced harsher circumstances during this time.
That was then, though; luckily today the situation throughout the country is different. As soon as we, in the U.S., got news that a coronavirus vaccine was available and ready for distribution back in January of 2021, I remember feeling genuine happiness and bursting with excitement. I couldn’t believe it! With time, my loved ones began getting the vaccine: my grandparents, my parents, and eventually, as of April 5th in the state of Florida, I was eligible as well. I got vaccinated against COVID-19 that Friday, and through the side effects of the vaccine—the fever, the chills, head and arm ache—I couldn’t contain the enthusiasm and my dreams of going back to a semi-normal life.
I dreamt of finally seeing my friends again, my family and others who had become important in my life over the course of the past year. And suddenly, it is almost possible to do it with a degree of normality again. Sometimes, I think about my situation this past year and it’s hard for me to feel sympathy for my own self given that so many others have had it way worse than me, but I have had all these emotions bottled up for a year, and it’s important to acknowledge them too.
Soon, dreaming of this return to normality made me recognize that I needed a break. After an entire year where somehow, my life had abruptly come to a stop, but in which simultaneously, the world kept on going and I had to keep up. I have decided that I need to start enjoying life. But really enjoy life, like not like I had before. The stress of school, internships, extracurriculars, and my personal relationships and life had never allowed me to take complete control of my life and do the things that I wanted to do. Why did it take a pandemic for me to realize that? I don’t know, but I think it definitely made me give more value to life and what it means to be living, and thankful and for every breath I get.
I used to think that taking the summer off school was unproductive and worthless—thanks, internalized capitalism—but this is not the case. The fact is that we are young and we need to have the time to explore, to learn and to grow apart from our responsibilities. It made me realize that I want to do everything and anything. I want to take local day trips, go to the beach and have a good time without worrying about my “quarantine weight,” finally read the books on my reading list, and appreciate the beauty in life—as safely as possible, as we are still in a pandemic.
The bottom line is that I want to take the summer off to have the freedom to do what I want, and I think that you should be able to have that freedom too.
I have ultimately decided to take one class this summer, though. Not because I have to—lucky for me—but because it was interesting enough that I want to. Additionally, I think I might end up getting a job or taking tennis lessons. I will definitely pay a visit to each of my friends and possibly go out like we used to. Perhaps I’ll go on a few dates, or maybe just out by myself. The possibilities are endless, and I can’t wait to make an adventure out of each day.