One Year of “These Unprecedented Times”


Alexandra Rivasplata ’22
Marketing Manager

It begins at 10:55pm on a Sunday, and I am playing that horrible game in which I imagine what my life would be like if I had made different choices. Inevitably, a form of escapism. Possibly an attempt at disassociating from this bitter reality. My current favorite coping mechanism.

I spiral, convincing myself for at least the 684th time this year that I would give just about anything to go back and take a million different chances.

In my head, I am making bold promises to my friends. I hope they know that I wish I had loved them deeper than I think I did before March 2020. Feeling afraid, that maybe I didn’t fulfill their need for quality time, or acts of service, or physical touch love languages as much as I desperately wish I could now, nearly a year later. That 342 days of repetitive “I miss you enormously,” and other words of affirmation, just aren’t cutting it anymore. I am asking myself, do I wish I had acted more freely than I did before March 2020? And a mix of necessity and self-pity bring me to dwell on all the seemingly insignificant times it might have been worth it to have cared more. Why didn’t I ever schedule a time to grab a meal with that girl from my class? I wonder if my first-year suitemates remember me? I wish I had gone to see them in concert before it was too late. Damn, how have I still never been to Oldenborg?

As the pandemic ultimately has reminded me, I know there are benefits to being someone who plays it safe. Cautious. A look before you leap, kind of person. And I think I can blame my Virgo ascendant, or maybe it’s from being the eldest daughter, but no one would really say I am “the adventurous type.” And if I had been given the chance to go back and “seize the day,” or find whatever it is that enables those effortlessly spontaneous souls, I’m not convinced I would have done anything much differently at all. Who knows if I would have been brave enough to? And after all this hysteria, I worry that the time to be a free spirit might have already run out.

But both physically and emotionally, I have been walking in the same circles for 342 days. I wander the same paths around my neighborhood, I sit in the same spot in my room, I have been re-wearing and re-washing the same pair of sweatpants and two t-shirts for what feels like a lifetime. I’ve listened to the same 15 songs all year, in practically the same order, on repeat. How can I be adopting my high school personality but simultaneously feel like I have aged 40 years? What is the word for feeling as if you have nothing worthwhile to show for this year besides a negative COVID test? Is it normal to be 20 years old and already feel a need to cope with the loss of your youth?

But can that loss even be worth anything when half a million people have died? And how fucked up it is that this number can’t even sit still in my mind. Does my gratitude for being healthy get cancelled out whenever I wallow in a quarter-life crisis? What does it mean to want everything to go back to normal because if it doesn’t, then essentially your immigrant parents paying for a 50k per-year private college education, feels like a total waste? What is it called when you’re lucky enough to be heartbroken over missing out on a “normal college experience” instead of worrying about staying alive or keeping your family afloat? How many more times is it acceptable to take a walk around the block to cry?

But as this continuous, mundane, passing of time tortures my brain some more, telling me that what should have been the best four years of my life are slipping away, I eventually catch up to myself. And when I do, I have to ask, have I ever behaved more courageously than this before? And maybe this is the ultimate test. And now I get what people mean when they say patience is a virtue. Perhaps just letting this year sink and not crush me, just lying here, without completely and totally losing my mind, has been an act of bravery all on its own. Maybe resilience can look like a disaster. And that disaster can look like me. Maybe I am doing my part by just sitting here. And there can be a kind of nobility in something like that, and in being this open and emotionally vulnerable. And maybe it is not just me who has noticed. And maybe this is me giving myself some credit. Maybe this is how I show myself some love.

Image Source: Backpacker Source

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