I was one of millions of students that graduated high school in 2020. I lost the second half of my senior year. No prom, which wasn’t a huge deal for me, no final band concert and no “real” graduation.
Anxiety has always been something I have struggled with. Between going out with friends, studying (or not so much) for an exam, even the thought of what I’m going to do at the end of the day. My senior year was when I felt this anixiety was lifting and becoming less of a day-to-day struggle and more of an “on occasion” thing.
The pandemic changed that.
I was hearing about things getting bad, places shutting down, and I remember my last day of high school: March 13th. This was a Friday, we had an Art Club soup fundraiser. Students made ceramic bowls in classes for weeks. Teachers and faculty had made gallons upon gallons of soup to be sold that weekend.
The final bell of the day was about to ring, and we got the call on the overhead intercom. I was packing a few binders I needed for homework that weekend. We were told we would be out of school for two weeks, which for many was exciting, but a part of me knew that two weeks was going to be longer.
We were told we didn’t need to pack everything up, and we were assured that in two week’s time, we would be back. I had packed most of my things I knew would be crucial for the following month or so. I didn’t expect it to go much longer, and obviously, I was wrong.
At first, being online wasn’t so bad. The stress of being at home all of the time mixed with trying to navigate online school for the first time was catching up to me fast. I was a “busy bee:” I was in multiple bands, newspaper and had a part time job, while also taking an AP literature class.
I was no longer working, no longer playing music and no longer having to put in much effort other than logging on my computer throughout the day.
Like many others in high school, I was looking forward to my freshman year in college. Decorating my dorm, making friends, eating at the dining halls and getting to be around a new group of people, it was all so exciting, but so far away at the same time.
I bought all of my supplies and everything for my dorm, and I was mentally prepared to leave home for the first time. I had roommates picked out, a building and room assignment, everything. I held onto this hope of my “college experience” until around July 2020.
Fast forward, here we are October 2021 and I’m in my sophomore year already. Somehow, the past almost two years in the pandemic have dragged on and flew by. But everyone seems to say that. Being on Zoom for over a year had caused so much burnout from technology. I had once loved hopping on my PC and play games for hours, it was my stress relief, but I haven’t been able to sit and play a game since early 2020.
I had lost my passion and drive for so many things I once loved and I was so frustrated. Being online even impeded on making friends. I was lucky enough to be able to truly connect with a few people over Snapchat and meeting them in person was surreal and emotional.
Being online stunted so many people, including myself, socially, academically and most importantly: mentally.
My freshman year at SRU feels like it never happened, being online as high school ended and as my college career began caused the lines to be blurred. Coming to campus at the end of August, I felt like a baby deer learning to walk for the first time.
I was navigating campus, finding classes, finding ways to engage with the friends I had met online and trying to get comfortable after being at home for so long.
I will say, I am lucky to say I was able to get involved despite the challenges of being online. I was longing for that human connection, and I was thankful enough to get started with contributing to The Rocket my first semester, which eventually led me to the amazing opportunity I have now, being the campus life editor. I also joined Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority, and I am so thankful for the friendships I have with my sisters. These are two things that made the transition to in-person a little bit easier. I already had a place on campus.
Other students may not have that. They may not have been able to find a place where they feel they “belong” after being online for what felt like eternity. Navigating the multiple layers of college life is stressful, and I can’t reiterate enough how thankful and glad I am to have the connections and friendships I have from The Rocket, Tri Sigma and even the Club Hockey team that I joined on impulse.
As I mentioned earlier, I am a self-proclaimed “busy bee,” and anyone who knows me could agree I have always been. The semester began and I was fully thrusted into my in-person classes, managing two online classes, having my extracurriculars, while also navigating finding time for my friends. These priorities are a challenge to line up, after having so little over the last year and a half of being online.
Some days are harder than others. I feel weighed down by homework, or even by general anxiety from my incredibly packed and busy schedule. I almost miss the convenience of Zoom, where we could just hop onto our computers while still in bed or even moving to my desk.
Students, faculty and staff were all so excited to be back that I don’t think any of us considered the impact it would have on our mental health, with such a sudden increase of social and academic obligation. We all need a day to relax sometimes, and it feels we can’t even have that now.
It’s a tricky situation. We spent so long wishing for in-person classes and activities, but we never realized how comfortable we were in our at-home routines. As the fall semester has gone on, there has been so much excitement, stress and overall mixed feelings. We should be thankful we are able to be close to back to “normal,” but there’s a natural feeling of missing the comfort of our homes and old routines.
I hope that soon we all recognize the impact of being so suddenly in-person has on our mental health.
I hope we can take care of ourselves and try and prevent the burnout that is quickly approaching.
Remember to take breaks, communicate with your professors on what you need and mental health days aren’t a bad thing. We can do this.