Writing something like this really isn’t easy. A major reason is that, by nature, it’s impossible to look back and forward at the same time. Especially when the last year, for me at least, has been all about living in the present. So when Senior Week confronts you with the simultaneous asks of “How was your year?” and “What’s your plan for post-grad?” it’s a challenge to parse out an answer.
When parts of life have been put on pause, it's tough to live in the present. With isolation comes a lot of time for reflection, and making the 2020-2021 slog feel productive was something that took more effort than I knew I could summon. I entered this pandemic as a more simple, naive version of the complex and reflective person that I have become.
The idea that “comparison is the thief of joy” is a simple yet poignant concept, and one that I’ve tried to adopt as a personal mantra of sorts. The darkest days of this year were marked by yearning. Yearning for a past where socializing was easy. Yearning for a future where we could go back to whatever “normal” truly is. And yearning for some alternative timeline where life never changed.
As we all know a bit too well, life often has its own plans. It tore me down and kept kicking once the pandemic started. Isolation led to unhealthy habits, misplaced anger, and a defeatist attitude that I didn’t deserve this, that I was powerless in making my life what it needed to be.
And for months, I believed it. I sat in my room with nothing but Netflix and video games and moped about how unlucky I was when this was a collective experience, and I was fortunate that my loved ones never contracted COVID-19.
I wanted to get back to my friends, and the fact that it was impossible until the summer wasn’t easy to come to grips with. So once I moved back to Boston, I decided to be a little more proactive. With nothing to do but think, the image of what I wanted from life was beginning to take shape. I started with my physical health, and started to appreciate some simple pleasures, taking not a single wave, head nod, or passing conversation for granted.
And then things got worse. The fall semester felt like an avalanche of bad news, high tensions, and academic burnout. I found myself wanting to leave what used to be my favorite place in the world and went home at Thanksgiving needing nothing more than a reset. It was a jarring reminder that personal progress is never linear and that peaks are often followed by valleys.
In New Jersey, I tried not to take home life for granted, and started to indulge in new habits like cooking, and focused on forming and maintaining friendships that I saw as important to who I was and who I could become. I returned to campus rejuvenated, with the gained perspective that I needed to take control of my own life.
I learned how to set aside instant gratification in the service of my long-term happiness. I decided what I was looking to gain from this year and decided to stop compromising on who I was or what others might think.
Life is too short and full of gray areas to stress about what’s outside of one’s control, and I know from experience how difficult it can be to get out of that hole. But letting go of that worry is liberating, and the knowledge that the people who matter will stick around is vital.
I’m a believer that you make your own luck. Passivity is a growth-stunting force with more power than most people realize. Taking life by the horns, with the full knowledge that you’ll often fail, is the way to fight it.
It’s a reason why this last hurrah at school makes me uneasy. For the first time since 2020, my life feels largely out of my control. Starting my journalistic career will be rewarding, and the possibility of the present moment is exciting, but the exodus from campus and into professional life will make social life take more effort.
The friendships I’ve made in the past four years, even just the past few days, are going to require work. But staying grounded in the present will continue to be my guiding precept. The past is already gone and worrying about the future is fruitless, but approaching each day with the fervor that can make living so beautiful is something that you can always control. It’s easier said than done, but it’s possible to attain if you commit to it.
Maturing so quickly at age 21 was perhaps unwelcome, but I’m eager to approach life with the mentality that the past year has provided. It’s been a brutal, incredible, heartbreaking, poignant, and life-affirming period that I wouldn’t trade.
If I can offer some advice: hug your friends, go on that vacation, blast the music with the windows down, and don’t be quick to say no. There will always be a sense of loss where our senior year is concerned, but taking life for what it is and not what you wish it to be makes it just a little bit easier to forget about what this pandemic has taken from us.
New friendships, new hobbies, and new experiences are always possible, and it’s never too late for a little bit of self-discovery. Progress isn’t possible when stuck in neutral, it’s okay to have your own timeline, and living each day with a defined purpose can be the catalyst for the kind of growth that breeds a principled and secure individual.
So yes, this year has been a challenge. But it’s also been the most formative and valuable time of my life, and while it is about to end, I know that change is life’s only constant. It’s your response to change that defines your life’s direction, and I’m ready to take on this transition, continuing to learn and grow.