We Did It

Well, we made it.

All over the country, students are wrapping up final projects, studying for final exams, and preparing their final presentations. For some, this is the last semester of their college career or at their particular school. For others, it’s just the last thing they have to do before beginning their summer internships or taking some much-needed rest time. But for all of us, it’s the end of one of the most uniquely stressful semesters of our lives.

There’s a saying that is often attributed to an English translation of a Chinese curse: “may you live in interesting times.” I think everyone can agree that’s what we’re going through. The transition from a relatively normal semester (or what passes for one these days) to one of the strangest happened so quickly a lot of us have not even had time to process it. In a matter of days, our schools were swept up in a flurry of closures, syllabi were changed, classes were moved online, and whole seasons of plans were canceled. Midterms were upon us before we even had time to process what was happening. We were trying to squeeze in essays and tests between washing our hands a thousand times a day, making masks for our families, and trying to find toilet paper in stores. Many of us were terrified for loved ones and lonely for our friends and family. Others grew increasingly agitated having to explain why holding your breath is not an accurate test for identifying coronavirus.

But at the time, one of the most frustrating things about this semester for me was that it felt like we were all trying very hard not to admit how we were feeling. With some of our close peers, we could admit that things were tough, or that we were struggling. En masse, we would say things like “hanging in there” or “doing fine.” I heard the phrase “this is the new normal” so many times, I could sense it coming from afar, like arthritis just before a big weather change. And to some degree, maybe it is—experts are saying that COVID-19 has completely changed the way our society is going to be organized from now on. Things are changing, I understand that. But let’s not pretend that this is normal. I saw a meme recently that said, “You are not working from home, you are at home because of a pandemic, trying to get work done.” As a student, that felt like a really important distinction to make.

This was hard. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Even for a school like mine where the transition happened quickly, efficiently, and as well as literally anyone could expect, it’s been rough. But there were positives to come out of this. We are re-learning lessons that always need reinforcement: there is vulnerability in our communities but also an untold amount of strength. Resilience is in our DNA. Above all, it is more important than ever to practice mindful, purposeful kindness—for peers, instructors, staff, administrators, family members, friends, strangers, but especially for ourselves. This is mostly uncharted terrain. We’re figuring this out as we go along.

So, for those about to take a much-needed break, I say this: be safe, be kind, and may you once again experience the relative bliss of living in less interesting times.

Jasmine Neosh is a student at College of Menominee Nation.

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