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viewpoint

HERE comes the sun

| Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Kerry Schneeman | The Observer

Have you noticed a sense of jitteriness around campus recently? It seems we have reached that time of the semester: when the rest we soaked up over our long break runs out, when the glittery excitement of reuniting with our friends and becoming acquainted with our new classes wears off, and when we start to spend our nights with our heads in our books instead of our pillows. Exams are beginning, and paper deadlines are approaching. I’ve already entered the “I’ll get up early and finish it tomorrow” phase. The honeymoon’s over, and things are getting serious once again.

This time of the semester comes every spring and fall, but something about this one seems especially troubling. With hundreds of active COVID-19 cases in our community, those of us who have managed to avoid the virus all this time walk around wondering if this is the day we’ll get it and have our routines uprooted by isolation and face potential long-term effects of the illness. Although “wellness” days are sprinkled into our spring semester, we won’t enjoy a substantial break from the buzz anytime soon. To add to the stress, many juniors and seniors are preparing to take the most intimidating exams of our lives — be it the MCAT, LSAT or GRE — or hunting for internships and career opportunities. There’s no relief. It feels like we’re on a high-speed train that is not stopping until mid-May.

It’s a difficult time to be a student. There’s the “Stop complaining and get over it,” crowd that tells us we should be adjusted to these times by now — that as we come up on a year of life in the COVID-19 era, we should all be masters at navigating our transformed world. We tend to think of the pandemic as a time when the world was put on pause and we received an undesirably long break from life. For a short time, things did stop, but in reality, we charged ahead and trudged along, and many of our responsibilities remained.

Now, we are not just carrying the weight of a few weeks of a college semester while still thriving from our 2.5-month break, nor did the turn of the clock on Dec. 31 hit a magical reset button that wiped away all the chaos of 2020. We are carrying the burden of a year of life disturbed, compounded by continuing uncertainty. It feels as though someone along the way decided that since everyone is going through these things together, their effect sort of cancels out, and no one is really going through anything. In reality, however, we are experiencing the troubles of our time as individuals, each with our own personal situations that add to the baseline burden. Even those who have lost the least over the past year have still lost a lot.

Things are still tough — even under a Biden presidency, even with spring settling in and even with vaccine administration underway. I tend to think that any problem must have some satisfactory solution — there’s always got to be a way to fix things. But this time, I just feel stuck. The issues giving me the most grief right now are ones that won’t be going away any time soon and cannot be changed much at the moment.

Though the dining halls have come a long way since their pandemic debut, I can’t help but feel frustrated when I drop my stacked boxes of food at the exact same turn on the first floor of Lyons Hall nearly every day, or when I spend dinner eating at my desk while FaceTiming my friends just a few rooms away. Though Zoom can be of great convenience in allowing us to meet with others, it can also be a great nuisance when my microphone lags every time I try to speak, forcing me to have to repeat the first minute of what I said every time I wish to chime in. As much as I love my Lyons friends and understand why the University had to increase restrictions on residence hall guest policies in response to our uptick in cases, sometimes I just want to watch a movie with my friends in PE. And though I understand why virtual office hours are necessary to help protect our professors, sometimes I just want to show my professor my notebook page with the physics diagram I drew to see if I’m on the right track. I understand why all these modifications are necessary, but that doesn’t make them any less frustrating to endure. The most difficult part of the situation right now is that I know things can’t be much easier.

Amid all the doom and gloom, however, I have one ray of hope to offer: The sun is out in South Bend. Just as things started looking down this semester, the golden ball has swooped in to lift our spirits. As feelings of social withdrawal and isolation begin to kick in, the sun seems to offer us companionship on our strolls around campus and through the windows of our dorm rooms. As sickness, stress and studies seek to lock us indoors, the sun has come to let us out, knowing that we can’t possibly resist its cozy rays. Something about the sunshine makes our problems a little more manageable, our worries a little less consuming and our restrictions a little more bearable. It helps us feel a little less stuck. We have been drenched in so much darkness lately, with charcoal skies looming over us for most of the day and concerns about the health of our loved ones and the state of our country weighing on our minds. All the while, we have continued to do our duties, forcing ourselves to keep moving forward. I nearly forgot how the sunshine felt. But today, go let it sink into your skin and remind yourself that it’s never too far away. Let it melt away your worries even just for a few moments, long enough to unstick yourself from the grip of these trying times.

Eva Analitis is a junior in Lyons Hall majoring in political science and pre-health. Even though she often can’t make up her own mind, that won’t stop her from trying to change yours. She can be reached at [email protected] or @evaanalitis on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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