The year 2020 has brought challenges that no one was prepared for but which forced everyone to adapt. I will never forget the day that Loras had to shut down for a while. I think we had all known it was coming, as colleges and universities around the country had made the same decision in the weeks prior. Regardless, I felt such a mixture of stress, sadness, and anxiety. I was at practice with my teammates when someone saw the email and announced it to all of us. Immediately everything stopped. I remember feeling like something was stolen from me; spring 2020 was supposed to be my return to soccer from a ten-month ACL recovery. Even though I knew it was what needed to be done, I couldn’t help but feel like a piece of me was taken away.
As my roommates and I packed up our apartment and said our goodbyes, I tried to remind myself that this would only be a break of a few short months and that things would be back to normal soon. Gosh, was I wrong. The first week of online learning at home was almost exciting, a new experience and time to rest. Everyone was posting their encouragement on social media and making the most of the situation. I, too, was determined that I was going to make the most of the situation – I had already felt defeated when I had my knee injury, I wasn’t going to stop being resilient now. I would get up in the morning and make an imitation of my favorite coffee house latte, make my favorite breakfast, do an outdoor workout, and get to work on my school work. My dad and I even set up the basement to be like a library study room, because that was the place I would have spent most of the time. We both tried to focus on the small things that made us happy, even in the midst of the fear of a pandemic. Even though concentration was much more difficult for me at home, my professors were so accommodating that it wasn’t much of a problem. We made it work. My friends from school and I would Zoom and ‘hang out,’ almost like normal times. I even started to write letters to my best friends, because it made a negative situation seem fun.
But, it didn’t take long for that initial excitement to fade. As the weeks dragged on, more events were canceled, and the more we wondered when things would go back to normal. It was almost like hearing of cancellations or city closures didn’t faze me after a while because I began to expect the worst out of 2020.
In a way, sadly, I was right. Another historic event occurred in the middle of the quarantine – the murder of George Floyd. It started a conversation, a movement that was long overdue in our country. I had previously acknowledged that our system was very flawed, but I had never understood the magnitude until this event. I remember many nights I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t accept that people of color had to live their lives in fear while I went about my life, never fearing for my safety. I started to research. It was just so horrifying to see a whole community of people treated so negatively in the media, and it opened my eyes to the painful oppression that people of color had been enduring for decades. I knew that I could not be quiet anymore. As a Christian and a person who values human rights, I couldn’t just sit by and allow things to continue on the way they were. I began to speak up, join anti-racism groups, support black businesses, read books. I knew that I needed to use my privilege to make a change.
Between the pandemic and the social unrest that was going on, my mental health definitely began to decline. Luckily, there were so many people there for support, even hours and miles away from me at home. I had so many enriching conversations about how I was handling everything with my professors, classmates, and coaches from Loras. It was crazy how much Loras felt like home, even when I wasn’t physically there. Amidst the worry and the panic happening around me, I felt grounded in the people from my school that supported me.
Soon it was time to go back to campus and I was so excited to get out of the house, as I’m sure every college kid was. I couldn’t wait to see my best friends who had become family on campus. I knew everything would look different, but anything was better than being stuck in my house the whole year. I finished moving back in on a Sunday, and by Monday, my junior soccer season had been pushed back. Just another loss in 2020. By now, I was almost feeling numb to it because it wasn’t just me experiencing loss. Every American was experiencing loss due to the pandemic. But I had to keep going. As we figured things out, my team started practicing and scrimmaging each other for a makeshift season. It certainly wasn’t the same, but I was so thankful to have soccer back, something that made my life a little closer to my ‘normal.’ If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to be appreciative of every little thing we have in this life. I started appreciating the small interactions I had with people in class, the work my professors were doing to keep things normal, the new wave of encouragement coming from social media as we all experienced this pandemic together. Since then, I have gotten the opportunity for so many things – to join Forward Thinking’s executive board, continue to train and strengthen my knee for the upcoming spring season, join a team Bible Study, experience DuBuddies on Zoom, continue work on my Honors Project. Somehow, I feel like I may not have had all these experiences if I wasn’t a college student during a global pandemic. Sure, I’ve lost things as everyone else has; but I also realize that I’ve gained wisdom and life experience that is invaluable and may not have happened if it weren’t for the challenges that 2020 has brought.