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The inspiration to write this poem came to me in waves. It came to me in distinct lines as I walked around campus — in between classes, in dining halls, while I sat outside people-watching. It was everywhere I went. Throughout the past couple of weeks, I often found myself in moments of pause and reflection. I would often think about how much has changed since March 2020 and how little has stayed the same. While much of the “new normal” feels normal enough, there is still a deep, unresolved longing for the true normalcy that I, or we, took for granted. And there is still a lot of fear of what’s yet to come.

I hope this poem resonates with someone. I hope it resonates with everyone to some extent. Above all, I hope everyone’s return to the UMass campus has been peaceful, rather than distressing. If you’re struggling with the transition into this semester, remember that you are not alone. It’s okay to feel discomfort, anger, and frustration. It’s okay to be upset at what’s out of your control, to want what you can’t have. I encourage everyone to lean into what they do have and what they can control. Appreciate it, and always look forward to the many brighter days ahead.

“Nostalgia”

The nostalgia is uncomfortable 

“It feels like yesterday.”

Yet, I am not the same person I was.

Not in the slightest

My body looks different

My brain does not think the same way

I do not have the same people by my side.

Now, I’m back

And everywhere I go

I feel tense.

I recall experiences that don’t offer the same comfort they once did

I enter crowded buildings and shy away

I recall beautiful memories that now evoke pain

I study alone, eat alone

Walking by friends I won’t get back,

Walking by friends I wish I had.

My pathways around campus carry a certain heaviness with them.

That’s where my friends and I used to do homework

That’s where we ate together

That’s where I felt good

That’s where I felt like me.

The nostalgia scares me

It’s the good, clouded by the fear of getting sick, of missing out

It won’t leave me alone.

It scares me that nothing feels the same

I fear it will never feel the same

The nostalgia fuels anger

It’s the feeling of debt

Like this campus owes me what it used to be.

I’m angry that the past 18 months have not treated us the same

As we have not treated them the same.

I know we have not lived through the same pandemic

We are not living through the same pandemic anymore.

It’s not yet over.

Still, there is comfort in collective discomfort, in collective fear, in collective anger

Still, the nostalgia gives me hope

It reminds me of the good I’ve been given. 

Aren’t I lucky that the nostalgia is so strong?

If I felt it once, I’ll feel it again, right?

On some days, it’s easier to forget

To push the fear and discomfort away

To suppress the anger and resentment

To lean into what used to be

And transform it into what it’s become.

I take those days and run with them. 

I hope those days are every day

Soon.

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Grace Bertagna

U Mass Amherst '23

Grace Bertagna is a sophomore at UMass Amherst studying Spanish and Sociology. She enjoys painting, practicing yoga, cooking, and playing ice hockey.
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