The following essay is written by Margot Lee for fellow college seniors during the time of the COVID-19 outbreak. This was written on March 14, 2020 at 10:30 AM and is purely commentary on the outbreak and SHOULD NOT be viewed as a news source. During this time, please consider everything you read about COVID-19 critically and with caution.
For a spoken version, head to my YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/nuOz1V5T1EY
Dear Fellow College Seniors,
I am just one voice among hundreds of thousands of voices. I do not represent the situation at large, but I do want to use my platform to address the “elephant in the room” for Class of 2020s around the country. After sharing a brief consolation addressed towards fellow college seniors on my Instagram story, the response was overwhelming and indicated that this topic deserves recognition and empathy. I am by no means attempting to overshadow the larger issue at hand, nor suggest that Coronavirus should be taken lightly. (To learn more about Coronavirus, click here.)
That being said, I’d like to share a resounding and overdue “what the fuck is going on” with all of you. One day on campus, the quad was filed with happy and carefree students enjoying a break of beautiful weather, and the next, the rain ominously foreshadowed the news to come.
Seemingly overnight, we were told to pack up our belongings, say goodbye to our roommates and friends, and if we were lucky, make a prediction about whether or not we will return. We are greeted at home by elbow bumps, our favorite local shops closed indefinitely, and hour-long lines in the stores that (against all odds) are still open.
It will feel as if we are grieving, because we are. We have lost something close to us. For some, a routine, a lifestyle, and a sense of self. For others, a lifeline.
Let yourselves mourn. Mourn the senior traditions you will miss out on. Mourn the friendships you will be forced to abruptly say goodbye to. Mourn your final college spring break. Mourn limitless resources for your final capstone or thesis. Mourn the classroom culture of high-level discussions and fresh, young ideas. Mourn graduation celebrations. Mourn your expectations.
Senior year now looks different than it did before, and it is time that we embrace it rather than scoff at it. If there is one thing we all have learned at college, it is how to resolve and embrace new situations.
Put yourselves in your own shoes as a freshman for a second. Thrusted into a new environment, we overcame social challenges, adjusted to new classroom formats, readjusted our mundane tasks, and reimagined what the next four years might look like. I challenge you to do the same now.
To younger students, regardless of your grade, please know your sadness and disappointment is just as valid. Grief is something that should never be compared or qualified, and everyone in the world is facing their own unforeseen hardships due to the onslaught of this horrible virus.
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 is as much an infodemic as it is a pandemic, which is why anxiety is deep rooted in our new day-to-day. If you have time, I’d recommend you listen to this 30 minute podcast on stress from Harvard Health’s podcast, “Living Better, Living Longer”, titled, “Stress and anxiety in the time of Covid-19. A Harvard psychiatry professor weighs in.”
That being said, I urge you to use an abundance of caution (putting my money on the fact that this will be the 2020 “word” of the year) in your new daily routine. Listen to the suggestions coming from your school, be willing to adjust scheduled plans in order to put your own and others’ health first, and take all precautions seriously. I have gotten a handful of messages from Italian followers warning Americans of what is to come if we do not take this seriously enough. Consider the following graph from the New York Times:
As professor Sean Branagan shared from a former student’s guest lecture, “It is way easier to punch your fist in the air and say these things need to change BUT it is way harder to make them happen. It means sacrifice and making tough decisions and doing without things we want. That’s what leads to change, and we need this change in our social behavior now. It’s critical.”
On a lighter note, I encourage any readers to use this “quarantined” time as an opportunity to do things you’ve been putting off because you needed to physically be 50 places at once. This might be painting, starting a website, exercising (may I suggest you do this outdoors and not in a gym), cooking something new, writing a script, organizing photographs, cleaning your closet, practicing a new language, reaching out to family members, etc.
I guess this is what I am trying to say- it will all be OK. We will one day be able to look back on being the “Coronavirus Class of 2020”, and as a follower shared, we do have an easy answer in interviews for “what is one adversity you have had to overcome?” We are all in this together. I love you all and encourage you to share your disappointments and how you plan to overcome that in the comments of this post.
“You see, we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. It may even be necessary to encounter the defeat, so that we can know who we are. So that we can see, oh, that happened, and I rose. I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose. I didn’t run away – I rose right where I’d been knocked down. And then that’s how you get to know yourself. You say, hmm, I can get up! I have enough of life in me to make somebody jealous enough to want to knock me down. I have so much courage in me that I have the effrontery, the incredible gall to stand up. That’s it. That’s how you get to know who you are.” -Maya Angelou
If you have the means to do so, I’d encourage anyone to donate to food banks, as the resources some families may be relying on have been closed, and visit Charity Navigator to be directly forwarded to medical organizations taking monetary donations.
Stay informed, ask critical questions, and take precautions, but do not live your life ruled by fear. Professor Takahashi shares this sentiment with you all, “Fear can be paralyzing and counterproductive in times of uncertainty”.
Sending my love to you all.
Thank you to my professors, followers, parents and friends for being a backboard to spring ideas and iterations of this essay upon. No one is going through this alone.