At my high school graduation, I delivered an entire speech about life’s curveballs and how these ultimately led you to the right path. I drew poetic connections between how not getting the job you wanted led to finding a career you loved. I even took it a step further by instructing the hope-filled graduating audience to be thankful for life’s little curveballs.
Boy, did I jinx myself big time.
The starry-eyed high school version of myself did not envision that one of these curveballs would be a global pandemic. I don’t think anyone saw that one coming. Certainly, no one thought we would still be feeling the ramifications of it so deeply, like a wound still being rubbed raw. I remember sitting in my physics lecture hall a year ago and being overjoyed that we would have a “two weeks” vacation from in-person classes. I recall that I had even thought it was a blessing since I was so behind on classwork and needed to catch up.
Yet again, I had jinxed myself.
As we all know, those two weeks have turned into over a year and now we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with widespread COVID-19 vaccine administration. This feat in modern science has resulted in over 190 million doses administered with 74 million Americans fully vaccinated according to the CDC. With the current rate, we are already planning on a ‘normal’ Summer B and Fall semester here at the University of Florida.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so ready for this pandemic to be over. Too many lives, memories and too much time has been lost to its greedy tentacles. It has flipped peoples’ lives upside down and left many in situations they never prepared for.
But at the same time, I find myself nervous to return to normal life. While I hate my current routine of going to class but working from home, I also am uncomfortable with the idea of going to a day full of classes like usual. While I miss going out downtown, I can’t fathom turning up in a club right now with no inhibitions.
Even as I prepare to turn the big 21 next week, I cannot align my previous wishes and my new ones because of the pandemic. Before, I had an elaborate sign night out planned for the occasion but now I can’t fathom completing half of the sign. Before, I found comfort in the hustle and bustle of daily life and thrived in pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
Pandemic-me has instead become used to rolling out of bed directly to sitting in front of my computer all day, day in and day out. I am used to eating my meals alone instead of out and about on campus and getting work done at Marston Science Library because I’m not laughing with friends. I am used to the new boring ‘normal,’ so much so that I fear returning to the previous one. I feel guilty writing about this as it is so trivial and many more people have endured greater losses, but this is the truth.
Hopefully, I am not jinxing myself again by saying that things will go back to ‘normal.’
I hope that by this time next year we can celebrate with family again and sit in a restaurant without a second thought. But I know it will not be the same. Nothing will ever be like it was before.
This isn’t a bad thing, though. We all learned so much during this time: about ourselves, about how far we can be pushed without breaking and that is it OK to break occasionally. This pandemic has taught me so much that I will carry with me back into normal life. I won’t be a workaholic like I was because the pandemic taught me to value my happiness and mental health over accomplishments. I won’t take my family for granted again because I learned just how much I lean on them for support and would truly be lost without them. I won’t let the daily grievances weigh me down as there is much more to be grateful for in this world than spending my time griping.
My high-school self did not envision a pandemic when she was on her soapbox about taking life’s curveballs in stride, but maybe she should have. After all, at my graduation, I hadn’t truly faced a time where things didn’t go as planned. Yes, there were trivial instances growing up and I didn’t get into the school I wanted initially, but those were not true moments of adversity. Instead, COVID-19 showed me what a true curveball looks like. It showed me the pain of losing potential memories and time. It stared me in the eye, crushed my plans and threw them into the garbage.
But that’s OK. It took me some time to realize it, but ultimately, I will be OK. Just because things didn’t go as planned, it doesn’t mean that I messed up. If anything, it means that I found silver linings where I could and tried to make the most of the situation, which is the most that any one of us could do.
As I blow out the candles on my cake next week, it will mark my second birthday in a pandemic. It will mark the lost plans and the should’ve been. But most of all, it will mark how far I have grown and what more is to come.
Jinx: life, you owe me a soda.