BY LAURA SWIHART STAFF WRITER
The leniency shown to students during the spring semester is all but gone as we dive back into schoolwork, either virtually or in person. “Safe Return to Campus” and “the virtual experience” are plastered on every school website and billboard as our university pretends to offer the complete, dynamic experience of college life (and charges us accordingly).
However, behind these hackneyed buzzwords, it is clear that our lives are anything but normal. For many people, their only connection to the school is an online Zoom room where classmates are nearly irrelevant to the experience. Clubs meet virtually, so many residential students hardly leave their dorm rooms, and students who don’t live on campus have no reason to come to campus at all.
Whether living at home or on campus, the human connection that allowed us to grow into ourselves has been stolen from the college experience.
The “safe return” is a falsehood; most of us are socially isolated and unable to engage in the meaningful activities that define us. Many of us are struggling with mental health, direction and motivation.
Instead of trying to make the best of the grim situation, we reminisce. We send “One Year Ago, Today” memories to our friends, and binge the shows that remind us of the vibrant lives we led before.
We lean into the security of nostalgia to ground ourselves in a world devoid of the activities and relationships that matter most.
Nostalgia is generally regarded as an ornamental emotion. However, ignoring the powerful feelings associated with memory is a missed opportunity.
Far from holding us in the past, nostalgia allows us to more deeply understand who we are. Reflecting on the moments we remember reveals what was truly important back then, and by extension, what is important now.
To find purpose in the insanity of today, we must acknowledge that academics are not the meaningful part of college we will remember.
Instead of forcing ourselves to pretend to be satiated by our unidimensional academic lives, we must learn to appreciate the strange new ways we can find meaning.
We must reflect on the nostalgia we feel for the lives we once knew. We must choose to focus on the ways we can continue our relationships with our friends and activities at a school providing only the bare minimum required to call itself a functioning university.
For me, it’s my time on the open road, embracing the freedom afforded by semi-virtual education and a lack of a social life. For you, it may be the new TV show that replaced social hour, the new hobby you took up or the rambling conversations with friends over FaceTime.
The pandemic has impacted everyone differently, and some students may still be thriving. But many — if not most — are struggling.
Remembering who we have been allows us to contextualize who we have become. We are products of our past, and the present will soon be another distant memory. Today is not what defines us, rather it is the aggregation of todays which forms a meaningful lifetime.
We will make it through this year, and eventually we will be able to meet face-to-face once again, dance, eat, and stay up all night binging movies and laughing about our shared memories — together.
We owe it to ourselves to ensure that one year from now, we will be able to reflect on today with the same warm nostalgia we feel for our pre-pandemic world.