College Daze – or Should I Say Corona Daze?

Kassidi M. Kaminski

By Kassidi M. Kaminski

“There’s not one person who is unaffected by this.” That is one piece of “comfort” I keep receiving from people during this COVID-19 crisis. It’s well-intentioned, but if anything, that statement makes me sadder, more defeated. We’re all experiencing a collective grief: the loss of loved ones, jobs, weddings, graduations, normalcy. C.S. Lewis writes that “No one ever told [him] grief felt so like fear.” That fear in this crisis stems from a disruption of routine and the inevitability of the unknown becoming the forefront of reality. I’m reminded that it’s dangerous to get comfortable in routine because nothing in this life is guaranteed. It is not guaranteed that we always have a stable job, close friendships, or another day of life. This pandemic is the biggest wake-up call that we’ve all collectively seen in a long, long time, perhaps ever.

In my wake-up call, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future. I’m completing my first year of graduate school in Austin. It was a hard first year. I experienced a lot of change, and I’m not one to welcome change into my life. I had great friends in Austin who were in their senior year of undergrad, so after long weeks of two part-time jobs and 15 hours of class, I had people in close proximity to fill the emptiness I was feeling. But those people are gone now —virtually graduating — and they’ve been gone since COVID-19 hit in March. In my second year of grad school, I will be more on my own than ever before. I will be working more hours, taking harder classes, living alone, and paying for more expenses. I won’t have as many of my people around me as I’ve had in the past, but after spending the past few months grieving their relocations, I’ve noticed two things about myself that need improving.

First, I need to be more independent. I think that’s something everyone is learning during this pandemic. I need to be okay with letting go, moving on, and looking at a future that is so bright it’s blinding (in the words of my dear friend Bodie Lowe). Becoming more independent is a change that some look forward to and some cower from, and we’re now in a time in which we have no choice but to do it. We can’t just say “no” to evolving into better versions of ourselves.

Besides owning my independence, in the same vein, I need to invest more in those who show up consistently in my life, who drive me to accept that independence and to sprint into that bright future regardless of distractions. It’s imperative in a time like this to fill yourself with the words and actions of people who want nothing but to help build your best self.

It’s easy to feel lonely and lost when the definition of “normal” is refined every moment. But I feel challenged to take the grief I’m feeling and the unpredictability of each day and to channel that into fostering my own growth and strengthening my most valuable friendships. And if that’s the only good thing to come out of an all-consuming, disruptive world crisis, I’ll have to take that as a win and keep sprinting.