When UVic announced that fall classes would be online, I let out half a sigh of relief. Of course, I was horrified at how the pandemic turned everyone’s lives upside down. However, the socially anxious introvert in me quietly rejoiced at the prospect of classes from the comfort of my apartment.
Every year, around mid-August, my anxiety sets in. Of course, pre-first day jitters are common, but I imagine not everyone reacts quite as extremely as I do. That fearful part of me was relieved that this year would be different. There would be no need to worry about getting lost, mixing up bus schedules, showing up to the wrong room, tripping on those weirdly spaced stairs that all lecture halls seem to have, no pressure of choosing a seat and people to sit next to, no small talk before class starts. Yet, like clockwork, I started having the same anxiety dreams I have every summer. The annual sense of dread crept into the bottom of my stomach.
A few days before classes officially started, as professors began opening online portals and sending course outlines, I realized what was bothering me the most. My apartment walls would no longer serve to keep my social anxiety out. Online classes meant I would be forced to invite it inside. Suddenly my list of potential disasters became replaced by online versions of my worries. What if my mic and camera aren’t actually disabled? Is it socially acceptable to leave your camera off? Is my profile picture suitable for a classroom? What if my mic doesn’t work, and no one can hear me when I do speak? What if I forget to turn my camera off, and everyone sees my pyjama pants when I get up? What if I forget to turn my mic off, and everyone hears me eating? What if my computer dies or my wifi cuts out? Will my classmates judge the books I have in my background? What if there’s a spelling error in my discussion post? The list went on.
On the first day, as I sat at my computer worrying if 10 minutes was too early to join my zoom lecture, I realized that this was all new. Not just for me, but almost everyone else too. These were new classes, new profs, new classmates. Just like any other year, it was the newness that scared me the most. Yes, I was worried about different things, but they weren’t so different from the usual. It all stemmed from being pushed out of my comfort zone and into new territory.
Not a lot will be the same this year, but my anxiety about it actually isn’t new. Last week, I learned to find comfort in that. I still don’t trust that my camera is disabled, the same way I don’t trust myself to walk up those stairs without tripping, but I’ll learn to get used to it the same way I do every September.