It’s early March 2020 and I am driving up to the Washington, DC area with my friend Lexie. We are visiting the city for our Spring Break. My biggest worry is not hitting the Washington, DC traffic – one of the worst traffic areas in the country. At that time, life appeared to be carefree, fun, and filled with things that were ordinary in our pre-pandemic world. Flash forward to April 2021 and we are 13 months into the coronavirus pandemic and the precautions that come with living in it. Life has become much more uncertain than we thought we could ever imagine and many of us have learned to cope with it. At the same time, life has been filled with grief and sadness over missing things that we enjoyed and could easily do in the pre-pandemic world. Most importantly, we have come together and united to support one another, as we all are going through the same things during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have discovered the silver linings and the good that has come out of the pandemic rather than focusing on the bad. We miss our pre-pandemic world, yet there is hope on the horizons and it will come again before we know it.

On March 11, 2020, I remember being on my Spring Break and flying from Washington, DC to Johnson City, Tennessee. I had a layover in Charlotte, North Carolina. I boarded a packed flight from Washington, DC to Charlotte and brought my wipes out of worry but didn’t wear a mask *it feels so weird at this point not to wear a mask in public especially on a plane*. I was nervous, but I knew I would be fine. As I boarded a much smaller yet still packed flight from Charlotte to Johnson City, I remember reading on the news that the coronavirus was declared as a pandemic and having to Google the word “pandemic”. As I sat on the flight, I did my typical plane ride activity of napping as I admire the airplane views of the Appalachian Mountains from up above. When I woke up, I heard the woman in front of me emphasize the importance of staying at home and not leaving the house – that was the first time that I had ever heard of that concept. I was going on vacation to visit a friend and hit Tennessee for the first-time ever. There was no way that I was even thinking of the idea of practically staying at home for an unforeseeable future.

As I got to Tennessee, I remember hearing that all of the colleges around me in North Carolina were closing for the next 2 weeks. NC State University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and East Carolina University were some of the many schools that were canceling classes for the coming weeks. As someone who had had a not so great semester that Spring 2020 semester, I was hoping that Meredith College would, too. I was so nervous hoping that Meredith would yet they did not. However, the next day it was announced that we were getting an extended Spring Break. Even though there was so much worry about COVID-19, I was still going about my days and enjoying my Tennessee adventure with my friend and her family. Many others were doing the same thing.

With the number of days that I was spending in Tennessee increasing, the number of coronavirus fears and precautions that we would take soon were also coming into play. Social distancing was becoming a growingly popular term along with the idea of simply staying at home. I still enjoyed my Tennessee trip mask-less and without maintaining social distance, but my worries were beginning to grow. It was, then, decided that my parents would come get me from Tennessee a few days later and I would be driving back home with them to Virginia. We made a pit stop at Meredith College to grab some of my things. I remember my mind being filled with a huge cloud full of sadness and worry. While I was hoping I would come back by the end of the Spring 2020 semester, I knew that there was a strong possibility that I would not.

When I made it home, I went INSANE. I wanted to know how long this new and temporary normal would last. I immediately disliked the idea of staying at home 24/7 – it was stressful and it kept me restless. With the growing number of stay at home orders across the United States, I began to be filled with anger at the idea of missing out on things due to the pandemic. I hated the idea of social distancing – I am a very social person – and not being able to go anywhere and have fun like I used to. But, COVID-19 had its ways. During this time, events at Meredith College for the coming Fall 2020 semester were being moved to an all virtual format. As a Club President for an organization on my college campus, I was asked along with other Club Presidents to move all of our events and meetings to an all virtual platform for the Fall 2020 semester. My anger and frustrations only began to worsen. Overtime, I learned to adapt to the changes of the pandemic and not let my sadness and grief and anger define my days. My focus changed and I started to thrive, even during the pandemic and stay at home orders.

As the summer months approached, I started to see others again and do things which made me happy. I started to go out to eat again with friends and family, take trips to the beach, and go on hikes. I got to explore a lot of my local area and it super great to be able to do so. The summer months allowed us all to do things and feel some sort of normalcy again despite COVID-19. I was happy and I enjoyed feeling even a small dose of normalcy in these crazy times.

August 2020 was the month that I moved back to Meredith College to finish up my Senior year. Although my Senior year has looked very different than all of my other college years, I am still very grateful to be able to have 3.5 great years filled with memories and great moments in what is known as the “typical college experience”. When I got back to Meredith, I was simply just happy to be there again. It had been a good 5 months since I was living there and it was really nice to be back. I did not realize how much I missed my apartment, campus, cooking my own meals, and the simple life of living in Raleigh at Meredith until I was there again.

Classes have looked very different since COVID-19 began. Everyone is required to wear a mask and the classrooms are laid out to allow for us all to maintain our social distance. With Senior year looking so different, it has been sad. I have also felt grateful that I am still able to simply be there at Meredith and in Raleigh, rather than at home. Even though I do not see as many people on a given day as I used to thanks to Zoom classes and safety precautions, I am still extremely grateful to see those that I get to see, whether in passing, chatting, or in the classroom. Consequentially, I have felt sad about missing out on the social aspect of my Senior year of college. I have missed being able to simply go to a restaurant without any worries and the same goes for pretty much every social event. My classmates have too. It has been hard for us all – we have all grieved a ton and have felt all the feels. But, we have done it together, in-person and in-spirit.

While times have been tough due to COVID-19, I have appreciated the bond that I share with others through this time. Every other college student has had to spend 13 months of their college career on Zoom for the majority of it – not just myself. In fact, my friends in the Class of 2020 had to graduate through Zoom. Although Meredith College is hosting an in-person graduation for the Class of 2020, I know many other schools that are not, which breaks my heart for them. Everyone has had to loss a lot from the coronavirus pandemic, whether or not we realize it. For myself, it has been the 21st Birthday of my dreams with a massive dinner and party which had to be done over Zoom along with the remainder of my “typical college experience”. Even though it is sad to lose a lot from COVID-19, we all have and we can all go through the grief of it all together.

There are so many silver linings with the pandemic. I feel that we are able to come together like never before. Even though Zoom really sucks at times, it has been a great benefit in many ways. If I am sick, I can Zoom into class or work and not stress about missing it, if I want to watch a speaker who lives in a city that is different than my own then I can from the comfort of my own couch, and I have access to virtual networks via social media to connect with people from practically everywhere. If it was not for COVID-19, I would not have been able to connect with others like I have been.

Most importantly, I feel very lucky compared to many others over the past 13 months. I have a family that has been able to maintain financial stability throughout this time frame. I have been able to have access to an education and had it financed. I am also going into a career field that is growing, despite many industries that are not. I have also not gotten sick during this time. I have been vaccinated, too. So many others have not had all of that. It is important to remember the blessings that we have and be thankful for them.

Since boarding a flight to Tennessee, my life has flipped upside down and been spun around quite a few times. However, my life would not have been the same if it wasn’t. I have consistently wondered what my life would have been like if COVID-19 did not transform our world like it has. Would we have the networks in place that we already have? Would we be on a path to bridging a more diverse and inclusive society in our beautiful world? Would I have worked on myself as much as I did and do now? Would we grow in the ways that we have since March 2020? Would we be the people that we are today and will be the people that we are to be tomorrow? Who knows.

XOXO – Katie <3

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