The beginning of my 2020 now sounds unreal. I flew home from Florida after visiting my grandparents and spending Christmas on a beach. On New Year’s Eve, my boyfriend and I took the train to downtown Chicago. We ate inside a crowded restaurant and saw a musical at a sold-out theatre. I spent my January traveling in London where I saw a handful of plays and went to restaurants, bars and museums. When I traveled through customs on the way home one year ago, TV screens lined the airport warning travelers from mainland China to take extra precautions due to the new disease spreading.
It all seemed serious, yet distant enough that I didn’t think much of it.
In March when my college inevitably called for a two-week “spring break,” my friends and I canceled our planned road trip and headed home. Instead of packing a small carry-on, I crammed as much as I could into my roommate’s minivan. I had a feeling we were in for the long haul, but I didn’t expect the long haul to last the rest of the year. I certainly didn’t think it’d affect the rest of my college experience.
Since this all started, I’ve said the same thing: I wish I were just five or ten years older. Not that a pandemic is easy for anyone, but college only lasts four years, and half of mine will be spent socially distant.
The frustrations that come along with being a 20-year-old college student in the midst of a pandemic seem never-ending. I think I could list my grievances for hours. I didn’t get to celebrate any of my friends’ 21st birthdays, and I know I’ll be at home for mine. My online academic burnout hit me like a truck in October and I barely dragged myself through the rest of the semester. I can’t pretend to do homework in the library or the Starbucks on campus. I’m missing out on dozens of traditions that I’ll never get to make up. But at the end of the day, I can deal with losing out on all the quintessential college experiences for the sake of everyone’s safety.
The most aggravating part of it all is watching others living like normal.
I’m not going to act like I’ve followed every single precaution perfectly. I’ve made countless unnecessary trips to Target. I didn’t quarantine for two weeks before hugging my mom. I definitely don’t have a perfectly sealed bubble of people I see. But even as someone who’s not locked inside 24/7 or spraying disinfectant on my groceries, the fatigue of seeing others not care at all has settled in.
Every week—almost every day at this point—I see post after post of people acting incredibly irresponsibly. On Halloween, half of the Snapchat stories in my feed were at parties with hundreds of people. People I graduated high school with held Friendsgivings with a table set for 20. It seems like half of my Facebook friends decided to vacation in Florida and Hawaii this Christmas. My peers continue to swap out bars for cheap endless drinks at chain restaurants and show them off on Instagram. And don’t even get me started about influencers traveling every week. Every time I open social media, I feel like I’m living on a different planet than everyone else.
It’s incredibly hard to watch and read the news every day. Headlines fill my notification wall with new milestones for the cases and deaths. Every once in a while, I actually read the full article. Then I flip over to Instagram and see another party.
Some days I feel like this will never end.
I know it will eventually, and I’ve been as optimistic as possible throughout this pandemic. Vaccines are rolling out, and scientists say we should reach herd immunity by the end of next year. But the end of next year means I’ve missed out on another full year of college. I already accepted that the spring and fall 2021 semesters won’t be the same, but I’m sure spring semester 2022 won’t be either.
I know I hold an incredible privilege to complain about having the traditional college experience ripped out from under me. 2020 took so much more than just my silly college years, yet I can’t help but wonder what college would’ve been like if everyone actually listened to scientists.