The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
We all empathized with the graduating seniors who didn’t get proper graduations.
We’ve wiped the tears of the college freshmen who were virtual for their first year of college, having no real premise on the liberation of collegiate freedom outside of a separate tab opened on a blackboard collaborate session.
I want to speak to the Class of 2022. Mostly, I see those younger and older than us envious that we have the privilege of witnessing pre and post covid eras of college.
To the envious, I force you to imagine leaving Sophomore year as an eyelash selling brassy blonde with a double nose ring and returning your senior year as a minimal makeup loving, black-haired book enthusiast. I wish this was an exaggeration.
In the last 16 months, I have undergone a plethora of unforeseen changes. Thanks to the security blanket of online learning, I never really considered the very real possibility that these changes would be accompanying me on my return. The idea of returning to campus life after having just spent the last year and a half in a period of rebranding, soul searching, and self-discovery has me shaken to the core; it’s kind of like a crossover episode of your favorite sitcoms that sounds better than it is when you get the chance to fully ingest it for what it is -rather than the idea of it- and conclude that these two worlds should’ve never actually collided in the first place.
Bottom line, we can’t just resume college life like we didn’t just have an almost two-year intermission. I think I speak for any and everyone who specializes in using journalism to chronically overshare when I say there’s a lot to unpack here. There’s a bridge to be gapped: What happened, what didn’t, and what is to be expected?
As a country, we endured a seemingly never-ending list of current events during the 16 months of on-again-off-again lockdown. A vaccine, a subsequent recall of one vaccine, a presidential election, and a baby boom, unlike anything I’ve ever seen only begin to sum up the very chaotic and almost comically dramatic plotline as faced by our society.
Naturally, my year online was very life-altering on a personal level. Four months into quarantine I had a spiritual awakening and decided that blonde hair wasn’t worth the upkeep and the edginess of two nose rings simply didn’t compliment my babyface. Nine months into quarantine I realized that the pounds of makeup and extensively lengthened millimeters of lashes that decorated my face during my first two years of college didn’t make me feel quite as beautiful as they once did.
I also realized that my many opinions and life experiences were worthy of sharing with the masses (enter HerCampus). Writing articles weekly soon came to be a liberating relief from the very real, very serious state of the world.
While initially enthralled with all the free time I had to immerse myself in movies and shows, I soon realized that the best stories to be consumed lived in the pages of books. Exchanging screentime for printed books and rediscovering a passion for literary fiction outside of mandated readings for school was a large part of my metamorphosis this year. I have an internship with Penguin Random House and a growing intolerance for blue light to thank for that. Between sophomore and senior year, Junior year serves as the much-needed intercessor that matures you from overly excited freshman to an adjusted, self-aware, mini-adult of sorts.
I think of all the happenings, the most significant was the realization that the most satisfying version of myself was the one most similar to my unrefined, pre-preteen self. The one that hadn’t yet been plagued with the social awareness to corroborate her idea of cool with what was presented on social media. The one determined to be nice before anything else. The one who loved a good bootcut jean.
What didn’t happen.
While my personal evolution was monumental in my own self-centered universe, the events perceived outwardly weren’t nearly as eventful. In other words, to the naked eye, a lot didn’t happen. For starters, I didn’t write the great American novel. I didn’t fall in love. I didn’t make my own fetal contribution to the quarantine baby boom. I didn’t pick up an obsession with the stock market, cryptocurrency, or any other suspiciously quick way to accumulate wealth for that matter.
The naked eye, though debilitatingly shallow in perspective by my standards, wouldn’t be wrong. Truthfully, a lot didn’t happen. While the professional and authentic versions of myself had ample time and attention to be watered and subsequently bloom, the social aspect of my life was placed on the back burner for a considerable amount of time. I found that upholding my end of a continual conversation whether on the phone or via text was extremely difficult; unless, of course, the other person on the end of that conversation was named ‘mommy.’ My social battery drained to the degree that unmuting to even deliver a monotone ‘here’ during attendance was almost unbearable by the end of Spring semester.
Precovid, I was highly involved on campus. I’d leave class with an agenda of meetings, dance practices, and group projects to be attended to and completed. Considering extracurriculars in conjunction with making time for my organically encountered friends and whatever dead-end guy I was giving the benefit of the doubt to at the time, the only time I had for myself existed between the hours of 3 AM and 7 AM when I showered and took a power nap to prepare for the next day. I liked to think that quarantine was the time for me to take a deep breath and enjoy my own solitude, uninterrupted.
My social battery died, and with it went my need to be culturally in tune and current. In gaining a truer sense of self, I lost my regard for all the things I was, unbeknownst to myself, pretending to care about. Moreover, using Instagram as a bare minimum way to interact and stay in the loop is simply outside of my realm of interests. I’ve progressed past the college culture of Instagram and gravitated toward the pleasure of the tastes and furtherment of interest that are unrefined, mine, and mine alone.
Interest, appearance, and outlook are three major ways that my junior year, or lack thereof, changed me. Change is inevitable, but the aftermath of navigating an environment in which we once matriculated in an immature and unevolved state will invoke anxiety in even the most unphased among us. When faced with the question of what to expect, I’m without an answer. Aside from mask mandates and vaccine requirements, the navigation of senior year with no fond memories of junior year to equip or prepare me is something I can only shrug my shoulders at the thought of. I expect it to be awkward initially. Returning to two classes of unfamiliar faces watching us in the same admiring awe that I watched the graduating class of 2019 will be an adjustment, and my empathy alone propels an eagerness in me to be as warm and inviting from a six-foot distance as I possibly can be.
Nonetheless, the idea that we are the most enriched and knowledgeable class with just a year and a half on campus sounds ludicrous but is the truth.
I assume we’ll be faced with an obligation to maximize every waking moment due to making up for the lost time. I imagine we’ll subsequently panic at the idea that time is running out. I fear some of us will regard the conclusion of our college days as something to dread when in reality it’s only the beginning of adulthood’s limitless adventures.
I never expected to transition from sophomore to senior this quickly or drastically, but more than anything I am confident in our ability to endure this last year of undergrad. If the last year and a half taught me nothing else, it’s that blondes should not be brassy, and the abilities of the Class of 2022 are boundless.