Allow me to preface this article by saying that last year was difficult for everyone. I am in no way attempting to minimize anyone’s experiences by recounting my own. I sincerely apologize if it comes off that way, but I suppose there is no way to prevent it from doing so.
I hope we can all agree that it was difficult to be a college freshman in the year 2020. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that having crucial and immovable rules in place against socializing during the time of your life when you arguably need it the most can be damaging. For me, the state of semi-isolation was only heightened by the awareness of ‘Before’—traditions we were missing out on, events that could not happen in person, actually knowing what people’s mouths looked like, etc. Compound that by endless hours of Zoom—clubs, classes, convocations—and you have, in my opinion, an airtight incubator for mental illness.
But, as humans do when given no other choice, I adjusted. I grew comfortable with the four close friends I was allowed to make, and it suddenly seemed ridiculous to have more than that. I was so content with getting out of bed a minute before class that in-person events quickly turned into an inconvenience. Getting my meals to go was luxurious instead of limiting; masks made socializing a choice instead of a requirement. The adjustment was hard, but the silver linings were ever present, and, in the end, despite the residential probation and crippling anxiety, my freshman year was as good as it could have been.
Now that the year has passed, life is a different story. I could write all day about how the first-years do not know how good they have it, but, although that anger is legitimate, I do not believe it is fair to be anything but happy for those that don’t have to feel guilty for living a normal life. Instead, I want to discuss my transition from a freshman year of distancing markers and masks to a sophomore year of Porch and normal amounts of furniture.
Transitions in general have always been hard for me. My anxiety without fail will start going in all different directions, and it takes a lot of brain-power to get it to calm down. I think a general pattern of mental illnesses is that when everyone expects you to be fine and you are not, you generally become worse. And when you are a sophomore returning to college, the transition isn’t supposed to shock you. You are supposed to know what to expect. Campus life should come comfortably to you, and being inexperienced at it is not normal.
But when you spend most of your freshman year accepting, adjusting and eventually appreciating a more socially isolated life, returning to a vaccinated campus makes the transition to sophomore year a bit more intense. How am I supposed to comfortably return to the normal amount of socializing when I spent my freshman year living under the rule that having five people in my room is a threat to the safety of the entire campus? Why would I not throw a hissy fit if no one follows the distancing markers that are burned into my brain and instead stand right next to me in line, fully intruding on my six feet of personal space? How am I expected to know how to act at a party when last year a party involving a group of 20 acquaintances having a bonfire got busted by security before midnight? I know sophomore year is supposed to come more naturally than freshman year, but there is really nothing natural about this transition. It’s awkward and bumpy, and my social meter is just about broken.
While it seems like I am upset about getting to live a more normal life, please know that I am not. My friends and I were so excitedly overwhelmed by the amount of scheduled events that were happening this past weekend that we wrote up a schedule for Friday night. All I am hoping to get across by writing this is that, as a sophomore, I am still adjusting. Just because we are finally getting to live a normal life does not mean it will come naturally to us. Especially in an environment where the only life we’ve experienced living has been one full of COVID restrictions. But, do not worry too much about your sophomore friends. There is no doubt in my mind that we will eventually adapt. God knows we have done it before.