COVID Semester, Best Semester

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak about a year ago, I have been kicked off campus twice, lived in three states, and lowered my expectations significantly. I decided pretty early on that I would keep my hopes low so I would not constantly be disappointed when life did not just “go back to normal.” I did not even expect to come back to school for this spring semester; I was ready for something to go wrong. However, as the day got closer and closer for me to move back in at Kenyon, I found myself not excited but anxious. Did I really even remember Kenyon? My class acquaintances? How to play lacrosse? How to attend a class every day? I was not sure if I would be returning to a home anymore and I was worried. I did not want Kenyon to look so different that I would grow to hate a place I cherished so much.

Woman in front of laptop with mask on Photo by Edward Jenner from Pexels

Obviously, Kenyon looks different. Masks are worn everywhere, I can’t see all of my friends at one time, and the odds you run into someone random on a night out and make a new friend are way lower (which I always really loved). Despite all the changes to my normal Kenyon routine, I actually have been having one of my best semesters yet. Part of it stems from the fact that I am just so grateful to be back. Stepping onto campus in January felt like a breath of fresh air, a return to some type of normalcy, and a return to my truest self: who I am when I am at Kenyon. Another part of it is how I’ve been forced to recognize who I actually want to spend my time with. COVID rules at Kenyon limit social gatherings, making it imperative to make plans with small groups because you can no longer just go wherever and hope you see someone you know. Hanging out with friends has become super intentional, which in a way is kind of sweet. Someone is choosing to hang out with me because they want to see me, so much so that they make a conscious effort to spend time with me and my friends. In the same way, I’ve become very intentional with who I choose to see, on the weekdays and weekends, and I’ve gained an even deeper appreciation for the friends I am constantly wanting to hang out with, even if it is to sit behind plexiglass at the dining hall. 

In a weird way, I have also made a ton of new friends, forcing me to ignore my social anxiety and actually try to forge new connections. I cannot rely on mutual friends introducing me to other people, so I have actually had to go out on a limb and try to see if I mesh with new types of people, and it has made me excited again. New friendships have jolted me out of a rhythm I was in where I was accepting friends who grew complacent, not putting forth any effort to see me or actually ask about my life.

studying group of friends Photo by Alexis Brown from Unsplash

I am happier than I have been in a long time, and maybe I am just as happy or less so than I was a year ago at Kenyon, I do not really remember. All I know is that I have time to focus on healing parts of myself I was ignoring, and my excitement for life has been reignited after lying dormant for so long when I was stuck in the same routine, day after day. I have had a few unpleasant experiences since being back at Kenyon, but I have worked through them in new ways that have me proud to look back at my growth. For once, I am grateful and content: for myself, for my roommates, for my new friends, and for life surprising me once again and for allowing me to hope for the first time in a long time (just a little bit).