As if the whole month of March felt like an eternity, April has completely felt like a blur.
When I think about the fact that I’m already three weeks through spring quarter with midterms rolling right through, I am questioning where our conception of time. Of course, I’m not trying to go all science on everyone at all, but where I thought I would begin to feel the extent I was spending on classes become monotonous, none of that has happened. The slow days of March resemble nothing about the way with which April has passed. This has been the first indicator for me at least that the way with which we are dealing with these trying times is at least becoming more and more manageable week by week.
Amidst everything else that is going on in our lives, we are beginning to shift our mindset from worrying about what we cannot control and instead actively searching out ways to make the most of the way things are going. We know how to stay in touch with friends frequently long-distance. We are learning how to make the most of our studying environments, no matter how difficult they may be to work in because we do have assignments that have deadlines and they won’t be done on their own. Whenever I don’t spend too many times reading the news, it feels as though just for a moment we’re living through a minor inconvenience, some small adjustment that will eventually pay off and we’ll snap back to everything eventually.
But there’s one catch. That one word at the end of the last paragraph.
If there is anything that is keeping us, rightly so, from doing our normal work or jobs, it’s the lack of finality. People are suffering and dying day by day, with no certain end in sight. For some of us that are privileged enough to not have been affected, to be able to just stay at home and be bored while doing college assignments, this pandemic may not have taken over the way it has for others. That isn’t to say that we must minimize anyone’s pain or inability to get things done in these times. No one sane or with a true heart can comfortably say that they are functioning the same as they did before this all happened. And to realize the way with this has affected everyone to at least some substantial way is to realize that once we understand the gravity of these events, the more challenging part about this all is figuring out what will our lives become once we can go back outside comfortably again.
My school sent out emails yesterday about housing and setting a plan for the fall quarter, and to be completely honest, I feel everything is way too near-sighted. Of course, institutions move at far slower rates than we would like (my school in particular), but no one being honest and pragmatic about where we are doing a disservice to us all. I recently read an article by Adam Harris on The Atlantic about where colleges are heading for the foreseeable future, and I think he brought up the intangibles that we are all facing. We saw what happened with Liberty University just a few weeks ago when the called students to return and many got sick. There isn’t anything more harrowing to me than being called back to come to campus just for things to only get far worse. Forget cultural behaviors shifting, like no more handshakes or attending large gatherings for maybe even years, but schools are going to have to come to terms with the fact it may not be safe till at least 2021 winter or even spring to bring people back to campus.
Spending much of this week thinking about this very reality has not just been sad, but also had me contemplating how I can even be a student at home for that long. It’s not that I don’t believe that I can’t adjust as I have right now, but I had been running under the assumption for the past few weeks that we could be back in the fall and one-quarter of online classes would be fine. But if the next quarter, or even two, go remote, where does that leave everyone? Students that are directly suffering because of this virus are already having to deal with issues about paying for school, heck paying to just get through the next week. How are we being fair to all students if, at the very least, not continue to extend pass/fail through those quarters, but make it mandatory? Also, just generally, how are there expectations to maintain or marginally increase financial aid at current levels when families are losing their jobs and students cannot safely work? These are all ideas that I have just been thinking through my head the more and more time I get to forecast what being a student will mean for the next two years.
I keep harping on this idea of a lack of finality because it is the biggest question of this all: when will we get back to normal? But, the more time I spend reflecting, the more I think we all need to just accept this as normal, and unfortunately, we may never return to a time before this pandemic. This does not mean that I don’t believe we all will adapt and get through this, because if anything, I hope that our ability to get through this all as one of the defining moments in all of our lives. Us staying at home, continuing to social distance, has been the strongest level of solidarity for humanity I have seen in my lifetime. I just hope we can continue to have this same resilient attitude in the months to come.