The commencement of the nation-wide quarantine that took place as part of the efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 has given me, besides absolutely nothing to do, a good amount of déjà vu. This is, largely, thanks to the fact that I’m familiar with the situation.
Around two years ago, all my friends said goodbye to their families and friends.
They headed off to college, and they wouldn’t see them for some time. There were a lot of goodbyes. Me? Well, I planned on staying right where I was — Miami, Florida, specifically, my house.
In spring I was accepted into the University of Florida (yay!). With a catch (boo!). I would be an online student for as long as it took me to complete 60 credits (with a one year minimum of time in the online program). Only then could I transition to on-campus learning. I accepted this offer because all my cousins love UF, I already earned 30 credits coming in and I didn’t want to go out of state.
I could’ve decided to live in Gainesville. Renting an off-campus apartment and using the UF facilities makes a great solution to the situation. That way one can, at least, take part of the hustle and bustle of campus life. Isn’t that the perfect solution? Yes – except for the consideration of money. It made little sense for me, financially, to pay for an apartment if I took remote classes. So, I stayed.
At first, it seemed okay.
I set up a schedule for myself. I watched lectures in the mornings and did homework in the afternoon–at first. However, after a few weeks of this, things started to fall apart. I woke up later and later and started putting off my work until after dinner. Truly, the most painful thing was how absolutely bored I felt. Plus, owning no car didn’t help.
Solution? Netflix and YouTube. Truth is, though, you can really only do so much of that before your brain turns to soup. After hitting a point of maximum laziness, I a turn-around. I found myself with so much free time that I couldn’t make any excuses not to begin working towards my goals like writing every day. I could work out, actually study or read. At last, I could do it all! I had no social life nor a rigid schedule for that matter, so why not? Soon enough I would write Barnes and Nobles’ most sold self-help book.
Commence the training montage, right? Wrong.
What “free time” really meant was that none of the bustle of daily life to distract from my inner life existed. During that year, I faced a lot of struggles. I had time to evaluate who I was, what I was doing and why I was doing it. It wasn’t very fun – let me tell you. Growing pains are as real for your soul as they are for your bones. More important than any of my lectures (even the awesome ones about castles and siege engines), were the truths I learned about myself.
Here’s a list of things I didn’t do: I didn’t work out every day, I didn’t write a novel (or even a short story), I didn’t become a better student and I didn’t start a business. But I did do other, more important, stuff. I changed my major from computer science to English, I reflected on my highest hopes and dreams, and in the process, I discovered my desired identity. Not too bad, right?
It made a valuable experience, even though there were no parties, no long nights in the library and no 2 a.m. trips to McDonald’s with my best friends.
Those things would come later. They always do. But without having spent that year alone, I wouldn’t have come to understand myself the way I did by the time the opportunities for those things came around. Perhaps I might have said no to offers to hang out, letting my introversion get the best of me. I certainly wouldn’t have learned the courage to ask a girl out or to fully be myself.
So, for those of you stuck at home your freshman semester and taking classes online, just know that it’s not the worst situation to be in. You can still learn from it. You can still grow from it. At the end of the day, it might make your college experience even better. It surely did for me.