Who we were then and who we are now – Le Paisano


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I vividly remember sitting in my dorm on campus with my then best friend and roommate in March 2020, midway through the second semester of our freshman year of college. It was the week before spring break and we desperately needed a break. We sat on our XL twin beds, studying each other in silence as we usually did on weekday evenings. But that night was different, as the tension surrounding COVID-19 seemed to rise with each confirmed case. I have done my best to reassure his concerns about the increase in cases in other countries. At the time, I was convinced that the virus would not reach the United States. At the time, I was an optimistic freshman. I had a healthy social life, good grades, and strong academic and professional skills. At the time, I thought I was smart and tough. I had no idea my whole world was about to be turned upside down.

That Friday my best friend and I met after class and hugged and said goodbye for the week, and a week later I got an email from UTSA explaining that the Spring break would be extended and the remainder of the semester would be held online to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I knew what this email meant: to come home. I was not happy with it. Growing up, my parents and I struggled to strike a balance between independence and discipline. After leaving my parents’ house and starting my studies at UTSA, I discovered that I liked my independence. Shortly after sending this email, my dorm issued partial refunds and announced expedited move dates. My dorm was empty at the end of April. In less than a month, my new life as I knew it had been taken apart and thrown away. I was given a taste for freedom, only to have it revoked before I could even establish an identity for myself.

Classes have since returned to campus and life seems to have returned to “normal” whatever that means now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be back. Still, that first week was accompanied by a strange feeling that left me uncomfortable, unprepared, and quite vulnerable. Sitting in a conference room surrounded by my peers, now a junior, I felt uncomfortable and uncomfortable. I am not the same person I was before this pandemic: I have since moved into an apartment, changed direction and career, went through a difficult breakup, adopted a kitten, had two new jobs and experienced several other changes. of life and personality. or rather adjustments. I am now much more anxious and worried about my health more than the average 20 year old probably needs. I have a much smaller social farm and get overwhelmed when I overprogram myself. I struggle with concentration and auditory processing in the classroom and in other academic or professional situations. I have a hard time getting to my planned commitments on time and preparing for whatever I’m planning. I discovered that I had an extraordinary ability to watch the day go by without really doing anything.

The changes in my thinking and behavior patterns that have developed over the past 18 months are most definitely impacting life, learning, and work during a pandemic as a young adult. As I entered adulthood, my physical health, well-being, and general sense of security were under constant threat. What’s more, the paltry efforts of federal and state governments to control the spread of the virus have resulted in the appalling spread of disinformation across the United States – a problem that is quickly becoming a pandemic in its own right.

I spent the first five months of the pandemic living with my parents, unable to work or see friends or family. I felt isolated but not alone, for I found solace in writing about the world and the people who inhabit it. Thanks to social media, the world was bound as one by our feelings of mutual loneliness. Today, however, as we sweep concerns about the increase in cases under the rug and attempt to reinstall “normal life” on a pilot still riddled with viruses (literally), I feel very lonely despite the fact that I rarely spend time alone.

When I first started writing this review, I had planned to end the article on an upbeat note, probably with a cliché of how I overcame all obstacles. The truth is, I didn’t. My mental health suffered as I faced isolation and financial insecurity. My social life will probably never return to the heights of pre-pandemic life. I celebrated the coming-of-age milestones at home and turned down unique opportunities out of fear of getting sick or passing the virus on to my loved ones. I had become discouraged and demotivated as I battled my ADHD in the online learning arena, which I felt would never provide me with adequate mental stimulation. I felt forgotten and instinctively linked the poor results to my own efforts and intelligence. I assumed that I was just simply smarter and would never be the student I once was again. Over time, however, I have learned to treat my brain gently and respectfully, recognizing that it is a muscle like any other that can adapt, overcome, and grow stronger. While I never really cracked the code for online learning, I didn’t give up. This semester really felt like it would never come, and although it was a difficult transition, the return to in-person learning gave me the student confidence in me. I now see that I am smart and tough, and I can defeat any dragons that cross my path. These qualities are part of me, and they don’t just go away in the face of a crisis. I think we all need to give ourselves a little more credit, given that we lived last year more or less in survival mode.

As we return to in-person classes this semester, please know that you are not alone. Try to allow your inner student to emerge at their own pace. I don’t think any of us know what “normal” really means anymore. Nonetheless, I hope that each of us can find the pieces that we have lost due to the pandemic and try to get back on our feet. We have done “normal” before and we can do it again; it may not look the same as it used to be, but neither do we!

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Julio V. Miller

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