Still feeling like a child in college is an experience I’d never thought possible. Everyone I knew before COVID-19 was just waiting to be an adult, begging for responsibility, work and freedom. Everyone really looked forward to college, like it was some automatic adult-maker.
Then, the pandemic hit. At first, I think we all just tried to ignore it, and then when we couldn’t anymore, we joked. So many good memes came from quarantine, but it just felt like we were all masking how we felt, 24/7. This became easy to do, considering we only ever communicated online, where it’s easy to lie convincingly.
Now, I’m here, at the end of my freshman year at a college that makes me feel active, supported and free. I don’t want those things anymore.
When it was a choice between acting older than I was and pretending I enjoyed being treated like a kid, the choice was obvious. Now, I miss home-cooked meals and when staying out just an hour later than curfew felt rebellious.
I was 17 when the pandemic started. I turn 20 this year. And how old do I feel? Like I just got my license and yelling at my parents is still fun.
Despite these feelings, I thrive here at Maryville. I have all the responsibilities that are normal at this stage of life, and I’m an organized student and engaged community member. But, I still sometimes wish I could’ve had a normal progression to here–a steady, slow pace into adulthood. I wish I hadn’t been so eager to give that up the second I had the chance to skip the line.
But, yes, college has been great. I blossomed socially and made friends with whom I was able to set clear expectations. Communication is so much simpler now. Since my friends and I feel so lucky to be able to see each other at all, we make the most of our time together.
My successes here have been great, and so have my failures. My first final, a failure, was humbling. My first five-hour study session and the “A+” I earned on the test was exhilarating. Both led me to who I am today: someone who loves to study, as long as I have my chai latte, and someone who is receptive to criticism.
Living somewhat on my own was jarring, but even if it felt like time stopped, it can’t really. Whether or not juniors in high school in 2020 were ready, we had to grow up instantly. We went from 17 and hopeless, to nothing for two years, almost like a pause. And then we dove straight into this beautiful mess of people and responsibilities and stress.
Overall, although unique and unconventional, I moved from child to adult in the middle of a pandemic. It was painful, confusing, funny, exciting and new.
As the year comes to a close and the pandemic’s power over my life dwindles, I feel at peace. I made it through the storm that blew me from frivilous parties and stupid gossip, to serious debates and fancy cheese parties.
I’m thankful for those who helped me, and I’m glad that I landed safely here at Maryville. Reflecting on how we got here and how we survived brings me some comfort for the future. If I can survive an entire pandemic on memes, Tiktok, Facetimes calls and chai tea lattes, whatever comes next will be a piece of cake. The pandemic, however, receives none of my gratitude.