Good morning Miami. It’s nearing the end of senior year, and I’ve been in a retrospective mood lately, which is probably a relatable, if predictable, sentiment.
Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how senior year is supposed to be a lot of things.
Social. Nostalgic. Relaxed.
And more than that, it’s supposed to be something you can count on. Something you can picture before you experience it — a chaotic collage of last semester classes and plenty of time with people you’ve gotten to know for three years.
But the coronavirus, as everyone knows, has made it impossible to count on anything.
Right around this time last year, I’d gotten back from a journalism winter program in New York City. I was taking upper level classes for my majors, applying for summer internships and preparing to assume the role of managing editor at the newspaper.
When we got sent home in March, I didn’t realize the vast expanse of time that would pass before I even realized it. And more than that, I didn’t know what that expanse of time would mean. Junior year ended in emails and Zoom links, and senior year loomed ahead with the promise of the return to in-person classes.
That, as we know, largely didn’t happen. Fall semester was a whirlwind of worrying about contracting the virus and even more online classes.
Suddenly, the things I’d looked forward to had become things I was afraid of.
Going to bars uptown felt risky. Hanging out with large groups of friends made me hesitate because I couldn’t be sure if they were taking the virus seriously. In-person classes, despite the mask on my face, made me nervous.
Like many Miami students, I opted to hang out with a few small groups of friends, keeping in touch with the rest through Snapchat or text messages. And as sporadically as it began, fall semester ended with remote final examinations, and after a couple of coronavirus exposure scares, I went home and stayed there for weeks.
When I came back to Oxford for spring semester, I didn’t know what to expect.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
And on that first Monday of classes, I began to realize something rather cliche. During all this time that my friends had been separated, we’d grown up — but we didn’t grow up together. We were getting accepted into graduate schools and accepting first job offers, but most times, this news wasn’t shared in person. And why? Because it couldn’t be.
I learned about many of these milestones over LinkedIn and Snapchat, and that just made me sad. We’d spent years living in this Oxford bubble, only to be harshly scattered across the country for nearly a year. The shared experiences of the class of 2021 paused in March and were either collecting dust or being shelved entirely.
For instance, my psychology capstone was online in the fall, so the last time I took a class in the psychology building was March of 2020, and that was it.
The capacity in our newsroom is five people — it used to host 30+ people on a busy day. As such, we’ve yet to have an in-person all-staff meeting since our staff transition last spring. On Monday nights, the newsroom used to be a bustle of activity and conversation. Now, the music from a Spotify playlist is sometimes the loudest sound in the room.
It’s odd to have had to say good-bye to experiences so early. It feels premature somehow, but all we’ve been asked to do this year is adapt. And we have, again and again.
We’ve adapted to the point where this is the “new normal,” whether we like it or not, and six months ago, I promised myself I’d never say that. I didn’t want the world to reach a point where online learning was acceptable and social distancing was a permanent society fixture.
Yet, here we are, making the best of what’s in front of us, finding joy in experiences we would have brushed aside a year ago. Getting coffee with friends. Trips to Chick-fil-A. Passing someone we know on the sidewalk.
On the first Monday of the semester, I sat in my first full in-person class in months, and I couldn’t help smiling. I wasn’t staring at a computer screen trying to pay attention, begging the clock to move faster.
I hadn’t clicked a button to join class a minute before it started; instead, I’d taken a 20-minute walk to the academic building, backpack on, umbrella in hand, unbothered by the untidy mix of rain and snow falling from the sky.
I’d chosen a seat, listened to an excellent professor lecture, watched my classmates raise their hands to answer questions and glimpsed a bit of the senior year I’ve been waiting to have.