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How a Year of School in a Pandemic Changed my Perspective

Despite my excitement to be finished my second year of university, I can’t help but mourn the year that I should have had. We all should have been able to go out and leave our houses. We all should have been able to be with each other, instead of experiencing the isolation that has been going on for over a year. It’s easy to resent the past year, to make jokes about how it didn’t count. Something about that, almost losing a year of my life, is even scarier to me when I think about how I lived before COVID…it wasn’t all that different. I am lucky to be safe and healthy, and it can feel selfish to think about all that I have lost, when others have lost so much more. Still, I find myself thinking about who I was, and who I want to be when this is all over.

In the past year, every time that I sat down at the desk in my room, or in the living room for a change of scenery, things didn’t feel right. I was working towards the same degree as always, but getting nothing out of my experience in university. It’s a hard to reconcile with the fact that this year is one of the few that students have had their normal university experience taken away from them, and that I just had to land in this graduating class.

A year ago, I was the type to stay in most days because I had to study or do work. During the day, I wasted time on Netflix or on my phone instead of spending time out on campus. I spent so much time alone, always thinking that there would be a next time. I assumed that every time I said no to a night out, that there would be another Friday. I assumed that every class I skipped, every first-year event that I missed, I would just be able to meet new people later or leave my dorm the next day. Now, I would give anything to be able to have a night out with my friends again, or to be able to sit in a library or lecture hall, even if it is just to do schoolwork.

I can be upset about how little I experienced before quarantine, but I can’t change that now. So, while I keep myself busy with summer classes and another year of Zoom calls, I am looking to the future. 

The biggest lesson I have gained is that there might never be a next time. As we have all learned this year, the things that we come to be the most used to, like studying in a crowded library, can be taken away from us faster than we think. Nobody wanted a pandemic, and nobody knows exactly what to do about it, but we can all decide how we live our lives after all of this.

For now, try to give yourself a routine that feels like normal life. Go on walks, safely run your errands and keep in (distanced) contact with the people you love. When it is safe to do so, I know that I’ll be taking every opportunity to go out and be face to face with people I care about. You won’t catch me saying no to plans ever again. I can’t keep letting myself miss out on what is going on around me. School in quarantine made me realize even more that my GPA is really not the only thing that matters. Good grades give me a nice ego boost, but at the end of the day, what makes me happy is being able to live a social life filled with new people and experiences.

Right now, everyone’s life is on pause. It sucks and we all want it to end, but the hard part is coming to terms with the fact that things might suck for a little while longer. For now, I’m looking forward to my next year of university because I am not keeping my life stalled for any longer than it has to be. The things that used to be my focus have proven to not be the most fulfilling parts of my life. 

COVID-19 took a lot away from the world, but it won’t last forever. I hope that the yearning we all feel for the future makes the rest of my university years some of the best, where I start to say yes to the things I value. At the end of the day, everything can be taken away, so what do you plan to do when you get it all back?

Selena is a second year student at McMaster pursuing a double major in Biology and Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour. When she isn't studying you can find her writing short stories, making Spotify playlists or on the hunt for a new coffee shop.
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