The Emotional Ramblings of a terrified junior
For eighteen months I’ve heard “Oh, you poor dear, you should be up at school, not stuck at home doing it on a computer. It’s just not fair to you kids.” And they were right, it wasn’t fair at all. For eighteen months, I worked two jobs, managed a full course load, took care of my family, and learned to take care of myself. Don’t get me wrong – a lot of good came out of the last year and a half. I love my jobs, I grew closer with my siblings, spent a lot of time with my kitties, and gained a lot of insight on what it means to work hard and be resilient. Those are things I wouldn’t trade for the world. But I was an adult living like a teenager, and something had to give.
When I finally got back to Rutgers, I thought this was it, the turning point I patiently waited for through this pandemic. I got my vaccine, I stayed masked and this was finally it. Everything we went through was paying off and life could begin again.
Joke’s on me, because I’m three weeks in and still waiting for life to commence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful to finally be back where a part of my heart belongs. But the pieces haven’t clicked yet. And the reason why dawned on me: I’m a freshman. I have the course work and expectations of a junior, but the complete inability to integrate fully into the social demands of a freshman. This was supposed to be easy, refreshing, and back to what we did. But the world isn’t what it was eighteen months ago.
I should count myself lucky; at least I got to spend time on campus before COVID-19 hit pause. But since when is six months as a freshman considered “integrated”? In those six months I went through a breakup, losing close friends from high school, and adjusted to life on my own. While these things are completely normal for a freshman, they don’t reflect college life as a whole. They were dynamic, temporary experiences that would soon be replaced with the permanency of experiencing things that were bigger than yourself, outside of the teenage bubble we once thought was the whole world. None of us truly experienced an inkling of true, close, lifelong friends, healthy relationships, being our own advocate, and having to care for ourselves. Just when we had some of it figured out, we packed up and went home to the lives we had before this first stage of growth.
But now we’re back. Some of us (including myself and my freshman roommate who I love to death) kept a few friends throughout this mess; most of us didn’t. We became squares on computers and our parents’ babies again. How do you unlearn all of that? How do you go back to something that you barely got used to? Our first little grasp at independence and a new life was fleeting in comparison to the past eighteen months. We’ve been expected to jump back in with open arms, no fear, and uncompromising excitement. But that’s just not the case. Most of us have forgotten how to do this college thing, and that’s not even accounting for the pandemic still raging on. I got a sore throat two weeks ago and went into a full on panic over whether or not I had COVID. How would I tell my roommate or classmates or family? I would’ve put them in danger, they’d be furious (and rightly so). Was it someone from class, or someone from that mixer I went to in a halfhearted attempt to be a normal junior in college? This is what I get for remotely trying to get back into it. The Zoom University nightmare was over, but this one has only begun. Here we are trying to reclaim a lost year, only to be inhibited by fears of COVID creeping up at every corner. I so desperately want to be safe at home again, but I can’t bear to go back after itching to come back.
I know a lot of people have sympathy for the underclassmen, I do too. They missed their freshman year and their senior year of high school. But the upperclassmen in your lives are starting over, too. We’re unsure, shaky, and trying our best to fit in again. We’ve all been through an incredibly difficult time. This isn’t the time to place one’s suffering over another. Lower and upperclassmen alike are all in the same boat, let’s treat them like such.