Shruti Talekar | Contributing Editor
In the same way that all meaning has been hollowed out of the word “unprecedented,” it feels like a massive understatement to say that this past year hasn’t gone as planned.
There were virtual classes and scarce motivation, nixed social events and the odd hobbies, doom scrolling and listlessness that replaced them and, for some, even loved ones lost. We would be remiss to let this reminder of the absurdity and difficulty of this year go unspoken.
But you know what, we survived. It might not have gone as intended — sunken GPAs and the gradual coalescence of work and life until balance between the two became unthinkable come to mind — but we survived. For that, be proud.
And for the shortcomings, disappointments and perceived failures the pandemic brought, be forgiving to yourself. We’re all living through a global, involuntary psychological experiment to see what would happen when in-person interaction and time to meaningfully relax become luxuries. Predictably, being tethered to your desk chair can be mentally ruinous.
Virtual learning has been its own novel set of challenges. To wake up in the morning and open your laptop knowing full well it would rarely be closed the rest of the day is a feat of its own.
Sitting through a Zoom call with others, but decidedly alone, several times a day is a taxing routine. Humans thrive off of novelty. To be deprived of new experiences not only robs us of the feel-good chemicals that accompany them, it makes learning and retaining information more difficult. We all need to remember that ending the semester with a less-than-ideal GPA, taking a “G” grade, withdrawing from a course or even taking a semester off are not personal failings. Powering through gruelling, monotonous classes or taking a step back are equally commendable actions in such — apologies — unprecedented times.
Separating yourself from the daily gauntlet of Zoom, Canvas and Google Docs was just as challenging. Adding work and school to the mix of at-home activities may have cut down commutes from a few miles to a few feet, but it also made them inseparable from leisure time. Besides the adverse physical effects of an exceedingly sedentary year, this encroachment of school and work onto free time was mentally destructive. Leaving a classroom is one thing, but what happens when the classroom is your desk, constantly beckoning you to squeeze a bit more productivity out of your waking hours?
We’re all living through the answer, and it sucks. But we’d also be remiss to not remind you that it’s OK if this year was challenging.
At least you got through it. Nobody had the same experience — many of us weren’t even on campus for one or both of the past two semesters — but everyone did the best they could with the limited and, frankly, depressing hand we were dealt.
As we begin to close out this semester, congratulate yourself. As we gain meaningful ground against COVID-19, allow yourself to look forward. There’s an exciting post-pandemic future full of in-person gatherings and eased psychological pressures, plus you get to bring the lessons of a challenging and introspective year with you.