In the midst of Coronavirus, we are each being asked to adjust to the new realities of life to maintain communal safety. In this time of isolation, with its numerous challenges, what keeps us grounded? Further, what can we learn about how to be better world citizens?
As a college student, the context we find ourselves in amid COVID-19 has brought to light numerous challenges and emotions. Not only are we trying to manage changes to our entire academic structure; many of as are simultaneously adapting to life at home and figuring out how to balance our academic and family responsibilities. For many students going home, wasn’t a choice so much as a directive. As a result, in the midst of so much uncertainty, many were forced to embrace further uncertainty, despite it being in our best interests. Suffice it to say, spring break has never felt less like a break.
While I have found myself frustrated by the world’s seemingly unprepared response to these changes and challenges, I have also found myself clinging to the moments of grace and pause I am seeing in my communities. The stories of hope being shared online, the past friendships that have been reignited, and the way my support systems have made themselves overwhelmingly available are like rays of sunshine breaking through a dark and gloomy sky.
Despite no longer engaging with people physically, the academic year continues as we brace ourselves for a fully online education. Fittingly, spring quarter is generally a time of transition, as new leaders begin to take on their roles for the coming year, and seniors make plans for their futures. This year I am serving as a student liaison to our yearly leadership training conference and the team’s recent discussions about how we should go about connecting students, the light of this pandemic, when they return to campus in the fall has opened my eyes to a new way of interacting with the world post COVID-19.
Yesterday, in the midst of another of zoom call, I was forced to pause by a casual comment made by another of our committee members. In talking about how the coming year will be framed, the point was made about how students will return to campus next year completely differently than they have any other year. Specifically, it was stated that students would return with that same energy freshman often bring to campus. The conversation continued as we discussed how that should change our approach to engagement with the incoming students who will be serving in leadership roles, but I was struck by this sentiment and what I heard to be an invitation.
While freshmen often get assigned a bad reputation, when referred to in general terms, there is something overwhelmingly special about being a first year in college. It is one of the few years in life when you can actually reinvent yourself. You can discover new passions, make new friends, and become more yourself than you may ever have been. There is a reason freshmen are often the most involved class in on-campus clubs and activities. They bring and embody this energy of self-discovery and excitement.
In the midst of this pandemic, with the enormous amount of uncertainty and frustration many of us are feeling, I find myself embracing this opportunity. While we don’t know when the pandemic will end, when it does, we will all have many choices to make. We may be deciding what friends and family we want to see first, what favorite restaurant we want to eat at, or what vacation we want to go on, but even more important, we are going to have the opportunity to decide what this pandemic teaches us.
Some may choose to move on as if COVID-19 never happened, some will be devastated by grief and loss, some may just be thankful. I personally hope I am able to embrace this invitation to be a freshman in the world. I hope I am able to better care for my friends and family after having to change what care looks like. I hope I can be more open to alternatives in moments when I’m asked or required to be flexible. I hope I can be more present in moments when I previously would have preferred to be somewhere else entirely. I hope I can be more thankful for being able to take a walk through a park and travel with friends. I hope I can be one of many to support those who have been most impacted by this pandemic and can join others in making important changes to improve our society for the most vulnerable around us.
For now, what graces are keeping you grounded? What practices have you established during this time of quarantine that you hope to continue? And looking to the future, I invite you to ponder what a post-pandemic world could look like. What changes do you imagine making in the ways in which you interact in the world?
How are you being invited to see the world in fresh ways? What has this time — when everything around us has changed — opened your eyes to?
What changes do you imagine making in the ways in which you interact in the world post-pandemic?
Originally from San Francisco, Rose Murphy is a third-year Theology and Religious Studies and Public Affairs double major at Seattle University. Rose currently works as a student affiliate at the Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs at Seattle University.
Photo courtesy of Flickr