March 13th; the day all UMass students got sent home and the day all our worries began. Though we went home knowing this was the end of spring semester, no one wanted to admit it. No one wanted to have that be the last day they woke up in a cramped dorm room with the smell of Berk wafting through their window and their roommates beside them.
Quarantine consisted of Zoom calls with my friends, spending hours outdoors, and waiting for the day I would pack up and head back to the beloved UMass campus. I waited and waited, until one day I realized I wasn’t waiting for anything. I was never going to wake up in the dead of winter to walk to class. I was never going to wait in line at Berk. I was never going to shove myself into the big blue bus with my back smushed against the glass. I was never going back. Choosing a university is a thoughtful and important decision. You decide based off of the atmosphere, the academic opportunity, and most importantly, the campus. I never thought I would wake up one morning in June to realize that it was over. I was given 7 months to experience the work of 4 years and now there was no going back.
I knew I wasn’t going back to campus and I had come to terms with the sadness of the situation, but being home made me feel deprived. Being in college is not just about your academic experience, but also about your personal development. When we go into college, many of us don’t know who we are just yet. We’re filled with unknowns, uncertainties and imperfections.
Think of us as seedlings. We start off as an unknown, unsure of what we will grow into. We come to college seeking growth, and while we all start off looking the same, we all grow independently. As time goes on and we are given proper nutrients, we come to the end of our growth, fully flourished and beautifully unique. These nutrients that seedlings need to grow are represented by social interactions and experiences that change our imperfections into qualities that better us. College is about our academic experience, but the social aspect of attending a university is one of a kind. The diversity of people and personalities on campus that allow us to grow cannot be found elsewhere, making those who only spent 7 months on campus deprived of growth.
I thought about how I would spend my time this fall, and I knew I wouldn’t flourish by remaining in my home surrounded by my family. I spent 18 years being supported by my loved ones. In order to better myself, I knew I needed to thrive independently. A week later I signed a lease, and an apartment for 4 was my version of on-campus housing. The responsibilities of an apartment were thrilling. The thought of buying groceries, doing my laundry and cleaning up after myself made me feel like a real adult, but the question was if I wanted all that so quickly.
I always imagined myself living in an apartment when I was ready to transition from dorm life to off-campus life. More space, more responsibilities, and the opportunity to live with my best friends. The thought of living alone is refreshing. It’s the start of a new chapter, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to flip the page. I enjoyed the comfort of a dorm room, surrounded by all the things I needed. Whether it was the dining hall, the Rec Center, or the laundry machines in the Cance basement, I never had to walk more than 5 minutes for any of my conveniences – it was all just there. When you leave home you leave your friends, your family, and the routine that made every day seem a little bit easier. When you move to a college campus, you meet your new family that you form new traditions and routines with. That’s what gets you through everyday. Big exams or hour long study sessions seem unimaginable in your head, but knowing you only have a quick walk to the dining hall or a friend’s dorm right next door makes those things seem so much smaller. When you move off campus there’s no easy access to the dining hall, and that family you made is now across Massachusetts and all over the country. If you want to eat, you have to go to the grocery store and if you want to talk to friends you have to get in your car and drive to see them. Not to say this is impossible, but this is definitely a change that nobody could have seen coming.
I am currently writing this article from the couch of my new apartment. The apartment with 3 other beds and 3 of the people I adore the most. If quarantine has taught me anything, it’s shown me that relationships do have a timeline, and if you are stuck dwelling on the things that make you unhappy, the timer will eventually run out and you won’t even notice. I wasn’t ready to grocery shop and I wasn’t ready to leave my favorite place in the world, but rather than focusing on what I didn’t have, I decided to focus on the wonderful opportunity that was standing in front of me: a chance to live with the people I love, a chance (and also a challenge) to navigate the world of adulthood, and a chance to be happy. I am happy. I’ll always remember what could have been, but I would rather experience the tick of the timer than look at the clock and be out of time.