Before COVID-19 intensified (and admittedly before I paid sufficient attention to the rapidly spreading virus), I could be found sporting a red riding hood cosplay at the annual Anime Fest at the Mississippi Trademart Center in Jackson, MS. Wearing no mask even though my mother cautioned my friends and I wear to one, I was exposed to throngs of teeming cosplayers, germs, and body odor as I sashayed around with no personal protection equipment. At that point, I was no different than the collective mentality surrounding COVID-19 because I imagined the virus would simply… go away. Reflecting back now, I can only imagine how absurd my thinking comes across as I internally cringe at myself, and I invite you to cringe as well.
However, it was the Friday prior to spring break, and I, like most college students, intended on having fun despite the fact that there was a virus aggressively circulating out there. Once I received the email about extended spring break, I then realized the severity of COVID-19 and like most of you, my life quickly turned topsy-turvy following the shift to remote learning this past semester. Understandably, it was not an easy adjustment not only academically but personally as well. Prior to attending Millsaps, I had taken only two online classes and now, like my peers, I had to conduct all my school work online as well as consulting students in the Writing Center’s new virtual platform.
With feelings of inadequacy and frustration, I constantly asked myself, my friends, my family, and the universe numerous times, “Can I actually do this or would it simply be easier to just throw in the towel?” Of, course they told me I could do it—except the universe because it abandoned me during my existential crisis several times—but I still felt like I couldn’t no matter the amount of reassurance that was readily provided to me.
See, that’s the funny thing about change—that everyone warns you about, but you don’t quite fully grasp it until it hits you like a ton of bricks. Change can be very uncomfortable, and it is not always easy to embrace no matter how much of it is shoveled down your life’s path. All around me, everything was changing from adjusting to life in a pandemic and remembering to put a mask on before I stepped out the door of our apartment to living in a historical revolution, where riots, protests, and the Black Lives Matter movement quickly rose to the epicenter of news with COVID-19.
With a hybrid mixture of cultures as a home-grown Southern, African American woman who’s experienced a bit of prejudice herself, I felt relieved that no one could longer turn a blind eye to racial injustice that had prevailed much of American history. Then, I felt frustrated as a divisive atmosphere corroded social media with people attacking one another in an aggressive right vs. left mentality. And then, I felt sad as I tuned into the evening news only to find out that there was a multitude of more COVID-19 deaths due to a recent surge. And then, I felt selfish because my one prevailing thought was the postponement of my Hardin Internship to next summer, which I had gladly looked forward to for Summer 2020.
So, for a while, it became difficult to know exactly what I was feeling or why I was feeling the way that I felt when I believed I should have felt a different way entirely. A more mature way of feeling and responding to the world’s event and my own life’s events. I mean, I’m 21 years old. Are your early twenties not the pinnacle time of maturity, good reasoning, clarity, and infinite wisdom?
While I begrudgingly accepted my roller coaster of emotions, I did experience some good changes in my life, such as spending more time with family and building on previous friendships (people seem to crawl out of the woodworks during a pandemic for some reason). One of my most visible changes is my recent election as the new editor-in-chief to a phenomenal, hard-working staff that endures my too cheerful emails and GroupMe messages with constant reminders of deadlines. While I am not grateful for the pandemic and its negative effects, I am grateful for the new circumstances that happened where I could work with such a talented group of people as well as a supportive, persistent advisor.
So, take it from me and realize that change is not always easy or warmly accepted initially. Nonetheless, it is necessary to continue our way of life. As we inch closer to the fall semester, it is perfectly alright to feel anxious, nervous, or uncertain about the new structure of our campus. No matter where we land in our decision to return to campus or to seek remote learning, once facet of new, adjusted life remains the same: we, as a Millsaps community, will have to learn how to live, work, study, and thrive in a pandemic.
While 2020 may appear to be ‘physically’ canceled, it cannot cancel our mental and emotional growth as we wear our masks, wash our hands, social distance, communicate, and learn together to embrace change and combat uncertainty