Column: Is this the pandemic or is this real life?


GVL Archive

Elizabeth Schanz, Staff Writer

I graduated high school in 2020. 

Now I know you’re either thinking, ‘Oh, that really sucks. You got the second half of your senior year taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.’ Or you’re thinking, ‘Yeah, I’ve heard enough about you having the second half of your senior year taken away because of the pandemic.’ 

Both these ideas remind me that one, I lost a semi-universal experience before my impending adulthood status. Secondly, I merely have to grieve these experiences because they’re not coming back. 

It wasn’t just the loss of some last milestone moments, a prom or a graduation, but the profound effect and change of energy in everyday life. 

The craziest thing about becoming an adult during this period is constantly trying to distinguish between the feelings of apprehension, the feeling of floating through life without intent, the loss of the sparkle and optimism from growing up or the mind-altering trauma induced by three years of uncertainty during a pandemic. 

From March 2020 until now, I have seen a lot of people ask ‘What’s the point?’ about most aspects of life. 

We deemed things ‘essential’ while the aspects of life that gave it meaning beyond the basics were put on pause. We learned to live without and in turn we lost the drive to live for more. 

But then again, as you grow older, don’t you just lead a simpler life? 

Then I came to college, to a dead campus I might add, with barely any prior expectations aside from those that I had seen “firsthand” in the movies. 

I accepted the isolation and underwhelming experience as I was greeted with the reality of college. 

Upperclassmen I talked to would emphasize this wasn’t nearly half of what the experience of classes, social life or what living on-campus was like. 

Now experiencing my first almost-normal year, I understand what they meant. 

Yet, I still hear from upperclassmen that the original college experience before the pandemic was something else, something better and just something you had to be a part of. I won’t ever truly get to freely experience this version of college. 

The carefree chaos of college seems to be replaced with caution and indifference because we have become accustomed to the lack of these seemingly “superfluous” experiences and are too tired to push for them again. 

Then again, maybe this is what adulthood feels like. 

People say you can’t grieve what you never had, but I feel an emptiness that this loss has made, a little voice in my head from an alternative timeline that tells me things could be different and asks ‘Is this all there is?’ 

Maybe we all lost the rose-colored glasses we’d been looking through before reality smacked them off our face in 2020. 

I’m still trying to pick up these pieces. 

But I’m not trying to put the glasses on again and ignore what we experienced in the pandemic. 

Instead, I’m trying to regain that sense of joy, what it felt like to take risks and experience life to the fullest extent. 

I just know that optimism has to be out there, that this feeling of indifference is not adulthood, but a side effect of a suffocating pandemic that has decimated our idea of what it means to be human.