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Society is opening up again.

Mask mandates are being lifted, vaccines and negative test results are not required, and people are beginning to gather by the thousands. Society is opening up again– but I’m not ready for it to be. 

As I returned to in-person classes at my university, I was excited, but also incredibly nervous. It was an eerie feeling that settled as I drove around campus.

Nothing had changed; students walking to class, waiting in line for coffee, and the excruciatingly painful thing that is finding a parking spot on campus. However, when I put my mask on to enter the building, I realized that nothing could be the same again. 

I spent the entire time in quarantine wishing for the day I could go back to school; waiting for the day I could have lunch with my friends, befriend strangers in the hallways, and even stress over classes. Yes, being inside a classroom again was special. Yes, feeling part of a community again was something I longed for.

But after a year and a half, all the social anxiety I had was heightened, leaving me with strong feelings of fear and stress of going back to class.

I walked inside the building, through the very familiar halls, and took the same routes I used to take before. Everything was the same, yet everything was different.

I am different than I was before.

I am a little less concerned with things I know do not matter. I learned that it is good to separate myself from those who bring negativity to my life. I understand that some situations are out of my control, that I cannot convince everyone to do the right thing. I am not the same person I was before.

It’s uncomfortable, but I take comfort in knowing that I am not the only person who feels they are starting again. 

I know it will take time, patience, and a lot of personal effort to feel at ease again. I will continue to work on the person I have become and live my life with every new lesson I have learned. 

My name is Maria and I am a senior at USF studying Integrated Public Relations & Advertising and French.
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