Welcome to our special section, Thrive Global on Campus, devoted to covering student mental health, well-being, and redefining success from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
Two weeks ago I was still sitting in my room at Stanford preparing for final projects and for the next quarter’s classes after that. Would it be Ancient DNA and the Human Past or Sleep and Dreams. Truthfully though, my mind was largely occupied by the upcoming events for my final few weeks at university. I was looking forward to Wine Tasting and Formal Dinner on the Quad: the fabled Senior Spring that everyone had been talking about with such anticipation and excitement since I first stepped foot on campus. This was it, this was going to be the payoff for four years of hard work, of devoting myself entirely to my studies. I was finally going to relax, have fun and spend what remaining time I had left with my friends before the inevitable sad goodbyes I had been dreading for so long.
Fast forward three weeks and I’m back home, having essentially been evacuated out of Stanford, never to return. In the span of a few short days, I went from believing that I could remain on campus, to thinking I had to leave campus but would be returning later on, to understanding that actually I wouldn’t be returning at all and that all the possessions I had left behind would be shipped to me. My bright orange bow, which I had been paying off by coaching archery on Sunday mornings for the last three year, my special pint glass, a Christmas present from my best friend and my bed, still covered in the sheets and duvet as if I had only left it this morning, are still there, a continent – and now a lifetime – away. I’d barely had time to register what had happened before I was sitting on a near-empty plane headed to the other side of the country. Ironically though, all those goodbyes I was so dreading, didn’t even happen.
Aside from the goodbyes, you might think that after four years there probably wasn’t much left for me to gain by being on campus and that missing out on just one quarter couldn’t be so bad. But there is still so much that I have to learn, not only in my academics but also in my ongoing attempts to grow up and become a fully-fledged human being. Now that my time has been cut short, I feel the loss all the more sharply. No more mad dashes across the Quad to make it from Archaeology to English on time, no more meetings with my venerable and much-admired advisor, who guided me with such care and attention, no more leisurely lunches at CoHo, no more open mic nights and no more running into old and new friends as I make my way up the Row after the end of lessons. Too much left behind too quickly. But most painful of all is that I won’t experience a definitive conclusion to my time at Stanford with a full graduation ceremony.
And now my future is more uncertain than ever. With the economy taking such a dramatic downturn getting a job, we’re told, will be harder than ever. It’s disconcerting not to be in control of your own life – but this is the new status quo. Nothing I can do will change the circumstances for the next few months. Classes and indeed graduation, if there is a ceremony at all, are to be determined by the Stanford administration and the various quarantine, self-isolation, and social distancing measures are to be determined by the government. So here I am home from college months before I was supposed to be, living with my parents again surrounded by uncertainty and anxiety.
But as much as the grand scheme of things is out of my control, there is also a great deal that isn’t. While I may not be able to dictate my life on the terms that I used to, I can still exert great control over the details of my new existence. I now have a practically inexhaustible amount of time to do with as I please. If necessity is the mother of invention then so far these new circumstances have only proven that more true than ever. We’ve all been forced to become more innovative in the way we interact and socialise. From more traditional phone calls and text messages, to full-on Zoom birthday parties, remote party games, and blind Zoom dating. There is an extraordinary number of activities that I can share with friends without leaving home. Indeed, now that I’ve been forced away from them, I’ve almost become better at keeping up with and checking in on my friends. I am more actively finding new ways to interact with them virtually and making sure I am up to date with how they are faring in these uncertain times. These circumstances create new difficulties and challenges every day but maybe by learning how to come to terms with these extraordinary times, I might make up in part for that lost Senior Spring. And hey if nothing else, at least I’m getting a lot more sleep!
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