Although social distancing will continue, the last post of the Lessons from Social Distancing series has finally arrived. My life changed a lot since I wrote the Introduction, Part 1: Dorm Away from Dorm, Part 2: Adventures in Cyberspace, and Part 3: Class Takeaways. I faced challenges I never expected while my family grappled with both losses and the fear of loss. My physical health hit many unexpected lows, even without contracting coronavirus. Now, I am struggling to adjust to what returning to Oberlin might mean for my connection to those back home and family members I might not get to see in person again. My time away from Oberlin during last Spring semester, summer break, the Junior Practicum Summit, and the Junior Practicum Research Track was likely the longest time I’ll spend in my childhood home for the rest of my adult life. Now, faced with leaving, I am reflecting on how different this time away has been than I could have anticipated last March. I am thankful for the time with my family and hopeful for the experiences to come.
For my section of campus, Spring Move-In Day 2021 starts on January 27. It has been almost a full year since I left Oberlin due to the pandemic, hurriedly throwing everything in my dorm into my car and arriving home to a place that felt unrecognizable. When I came, I hoped that it was only temporary— a couple of weeks at the most, or maybe the rest of the semester. By the end of the Spring semester, the pandemic’s magnitude was clear, as was the necessity for a strong response. Oberlin College dedicated itself to taking measures to protect our community. We pivoted to a three-semester plan, and most people in my graduating class remained at home for the Fall semester. I’ll admit that I was disappointed by the decision. The semesters’ organization means that I will have two very short breaks between the three semesters I’ll attend this calendar year once I start classes. It also means that my grand plans to intern during this Summer will likely remain just that— plans and nothing more. However, this time away came at the right moment in my life. It allowed me to spend quality time with my family, figure out what I am most passionate about, and chart a course towards graduation that inspires me. I see now that none of what I accomplished over the past ten months would have been possible without these adjustments. I invite you all to walk down memory lane with me. After all, hindsight sometimes is 2020.
Being at home showed me time and time again why I enjoy hanging out with my family. Whether laughing over blueberry muffin batter or collectively researching American history to help my brother prepare for class, they found the joy in challenging moments. My parents invested their time and energy into ensuring my brother and I could improve and laugh at our mistakes. Their lessons in laughter helped bring us all through the challenges that we did not expect. We found time to laugh together and remember why this moment is particularly disappointing: we have so many happy times ahead and behind us. We sang nonsensical songs about chores, failed at my brother’s favorite video games, and rewatched all the movies that made our collective childhoods. We each grew leaps and bounds— literally for my younger brother, who is now taller than my dad. Although the circumstances around us were far from perfect, we knew that at least three other people would always stand by our side. It was a relief to be with people I know I can always depend on. As I head back to Oberlin, I will miss our moments of joking around together the most. I know I will stay in touch, but I recognize that it won’t be the same.
At the same time, I’m excited to get back to college coursework. Being at home gave me space and free time to consider what my priorities are for the future. I realized that I want to explore writing in genres outside of poetry and that I want to declare an English minor. I found that law school really isn’t the right fit for me. Instead, I hope to pursue a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in poetry. I set goals for the play I started. I explored topics that are interesting to me and restarted old hobbies like crochet and hand-sewing. One satin-lined hat and half a sweater later, I plan to take my crochet hooks, sewing kit, and yarn with me to Oberlin. I hope to finish my sweater before my first day of classes.
The start of my junior year is incredibly surreal. I am finally crossing the halfway point towards receiving my degree. Social distancing at home gave me a lot of time to think about how I want to finish my requirements. I realized that while I might not be an Africana studies minor, taking at least one Africana studies class a semester is both possible and beneficial. I decided what classes I will take this semester and next semester and feel genuinely excited for the lessons they’ll teach me. Finally, I identified what skills I would like to have on my resume after college and made sure that my coursework would reflect this knowledge.
In many ways, I feel as though I’ve arrived on the other side of a tunnel. While crossing, I sometimes wondered if I would make it to my destination— and if I would be the same person after. Change isn’t easy for me and the past ten months were a never-ending series of plot twists. I spent each day outside of my comfort zone and learned to appreciate each moment. I am grateful for each opportunity that comes my way. The journey is far from over, but I am starting to think I know the path forward based on what’s now behind me.