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Remember not to forget

| Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Kerry Schneeman | The Observer

Three weeks ago, I stopped at a red light and began frantically waving my arms back and forth to the beat of the dance music I was loudly playing (LMFAO’s “Shots” to be precise), as I waited for the light to turn green. I turned and saw the people in the car next to me staring, confused. They rolled down the window of their car and asked, “are you… okay?”

“Hahaha yes, I’m great!” I replied, “just trying to warm up my arm for my first vaccine! YAY!”

They laughed, the light turned green and we all drove away. 

Fifteen minutes later, I pulled up at the vaccine site and, for the first time in the history of my life, I smiled when I received a shot. I turned to the person administering my vaccine and made the dad joke I’m sure they’re tired of hearing by now: “I bet you’ve never seen this many people so excited to get vaccinated.” 

That earned me a half-laugh. While I sat in the waiting room for fifteen minutes post-vaccine, I thought about all the things that were about to return to my life and tears welled in my eyes. Back in my car after leaving the clinic, I called my mom and we had a nice moment of excitement. 

This weekend, I returned to the pharmacy and received the second of Pfizer’s two-dose series. After a long nap, I haven’t experienced many symptoms beyond a sore left arm.

For the past year, I anticipated vaccination eagerly. I can’t even begin to count the number of sentences I spoke that began with, “once we’re vaccinated…” or “when this is all over…”

I’m pretty sure that experience was somewhat universal. I never expected that two weeks at home with my family would turn into eight months or that what was supposed to just be a COVID semester would turn into a COVID school year. Many of us have been anticipating the end of this pandemic since we got sent home last March. 

Throughout this whole time, I haven’t really allowed myself to look back on what’s happened because I genuinely wasn’t sure if this would ever end. Obviously, the pandemic is still far from over, but vaccination will allow me to return to some of the social encounters I missed so much, and I now have hope that we might actually be in a post-pandemic world soon-ish. 

Of course, for this to happen, the US and other wealthy countries need to stop hoarding doses and start suspending patents. But I’ll leave it to the New York Times editorial board to explain that much more eloquently than I could.  

Like many other American college students, I missed out on some of the experiences I thought I would get to have in my junior year. I didn’t get to study abroad, and my parents weren’t able to come hang out for Junior Parents Weekend. But, when I remember the devastating losses that have been faced by people all over the world, I feel incredibly lucky to have made it through this year. 

On March 30, 2020, I used my column to explain the parts of life during COVID that I hoped would never become part of daily life. But now, after watching a year pass, I can think of a few things that we should keep doing. 

Many of my professors have been exceptionally aware of student mental health this year and have been willing to make accommodations for deadlines and absences in a way I haven’t experienced before. Even when there isn’t a global pandemic going on, Notre Dame students still face lots of challenges with mental and physical health. Making accommodations without asking excessive questions should be the norm. 

Many of my peers made plans for this (and last) summer that don’t fit into the typical Notre Dame summer internship schedule. Some of us are working from home, others are working on location and some aren’t working at all. I’ve seen many students empowered to do what we want with our time, rather than what we’re expected to do with our time. Life’s too short to take an internship you don’t care about because it looks good on your resume. 

Many people used their free time to try something new. Some picked up a hobby, others learned to play a new game or sport. Some worked on projects they’d been dreaming of for years and others picked up the books that they’d been waiting forever to read. The pandemic forced many people to pause the busyness of daily life and think more intentionally about what they spend every day doing. What’s the point of spending your whole life on something you don’t love? 

I am grateful that our lives will get to continue somewhat normally when we return to campus fully vaccinated in the fall. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t think about the fact that only 3% of the global population has been fully vaccinated, while at least 90% of our campus will be completely vaccinated within the next 2-3 weeks. COVID-19 has exacerbated inequalities and shown that these positive experiences I described earlier were not available to everyone. As we move forward, let us bear this in mind and continue to fight for more just and equitable ways of living for all. 

This summer, I plan to spend lots more time reflecting on what happened this year and I hope you all will join me in this. As we move forward from the past year and celebrate the new fun and fully-vaccinated lives ahead of us, we must remember not to forget what has happened.

Ashton Weber is a junior with lots of opinions. She is majoring in gender studies and economics with a minor in sociology. Ashton can often be found with her nose in a book, but if you want to chat about intersectional feminism, baking blueberry scones, growing ZZ plants or anything else, she’d love to hear from you. Reach Ashton at [email protected] or @awebz01 on Twitter.

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

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About Ashton Weber

Ashton is a current Sophomore majoring in Economics and FTT, and minoring in the Gallivan Journalism Program. She is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, but now resides in Flaherty Hall. Feel free to contact her about anything... literally, anything. She is often bored.

Contact Ashton