When the pandemic first began, I felt stunned. Not only did the unimaginable occur and thousands of people were suddenly at risk, but the world continued to go on in spite of the chaos. Brief lockdowns were followed by people returning back to work and students returning back to school, as a huge cultural shift transitioned us into an online-based and together-but-not-really society. Beyond that, we witnessed lives collapsing in the face of COVID-19 and a financial reality that most of us could not have prepared for even if we’d known years in advance what would be.
As someone who always likes to plan ahead and work towards solid goals, it was like the entire future I had extensively planned out was wiped out, and I had to rebuild from scratch. I felt bound to an idea of what I was supposed to be doing during my four years in college that was no longer pertinent. After the initial shock of our global situation settled in, I found myself growing restless. I couldn’t accept that this is the end and all my goals were done for- but I also had no idea how to translate my dreams into reality in this climate.
Returning to school proved itself to be a great driver for me. Even though many of my courses were online, I invested myself into my work and tried to find positives in the smallest situations to keep it pushing. For example, in previous semesters, I struggled to make it to office hours because I usually couldn’t make it between my commute to work and work hours. Due to the pandemic, I was now able to attend office hours via Zoom and build relationships that I most likely wouldn’t have had the time for before. What’s more, I began taking advantage of career resources and building my network. I also had access to recorded lectures, so even when I struggled to pay attention in class I had the chance to look back and see what I missed when I was finding my productivity.
While I am grateful that I had the chance to feel disappointed and sad in how things have worked out, and I still experience wafts of these emotions occasionally, I am even more grateful for the opportunity it gave me to develop my resilience and sense of initiative. I wish all of this didn’t have to happen to garner such skills, of course. However, if there is any takeaway to get from this article it is: don’t feel forced to keep up in a world where everyone else feels like they are on auto-pilot and is just as confused and uncertain about the future as you are. Taking control of what you can is a big step and don’t hold yourself up to some unrealistic pre-pandemic expectations.
These are trying times, but we need to maintain some sense of hope for the future. As much as it is important to make plans for oneself and pursue goals, it is critical to also assume flexibility and not beat yourself up if we hit another bend in the road.