For this series we’ve asked consultants to share a little bit about what they’ve experienced over the last year, as people working at the UWC, as students, and as humans—full stop. It’s been a difficult time for all of us in different ways, and right now we’d like to remember what we’ve learned and what we hope for going forward.
Written by: Jay A.
I remember back in March 2020, me and my two best friends bought this massive ethernet cable so we could drag the PC out to the living room and play video games on the couch together. I practically lived in their apartment with them at that point, having fallen into a routine that felt unshakable. It was a night like that when we received the email alerting the three of us that we’d have to move out within the week. We were planning on moving into an apartment together in May, just after the semester ended.
Meanwhile, we were going on hikes every weekend and studying together and drinking wine on Friday nights, building a community between the three of us that, again, felt so solid. The move-out was surreal because none of us had anticipated it at all. At the time, no one knew how things were going to pan out. We were no longer sure if the apartment we’d chosen would let us move in in May, given the risks. In what felt like an instant, we were displaced from our routine and dropped back in our hometowns, miles apart from one another.
The surreal feeling never really went away. My mental health plummeted, as did the mental health of my best friends. We ended up moving into the apartment together, settling back into a routine, but it was one that was decidedly different from the previous peaceful coexistence we had going on before. I see these people every single day of my life, I spend almost every hour of my day with them. It’s brought us decidedly closer together, through power outages spent sitting on the kitchen floor playing Uno and drinking espresso to masked Target runs on Saturdays.
It’s also been an unexpected challenge. Communication becomes the most important part of your life when you are spending so much time with people you love but whose emotions you may not always understand. We all have distinctly different neuroses; some of us hate when the sink is full of dishes, some of us isolate as a way of coping, some of us hate to be the butt of a joke, some of us are loud and others hate noise, some of us require socialization and others tend more toward introversion.
The challenge hasn’t been to mold and change ourselves to fit each other’s wants and needs, but instead to learn about those wants and needs and how to better accommodate them while staying true to ourselves. In the pandemic, passive aggression is no longer an option. We can’t realistically avoid one another; we share a home, we share a life. It’s been a learning curve—but it’s permanently altered the way I, and perhaps all of us, communicate. When it comes down to it, we love each other. At times, that love has been strained by the pandemic. There have been semi-frequent visits back home, phone calls with parents, frustrated tears, but overall there has been an unmatched level of love the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Living in the pandemic has been frustrating and difficult and exhausting. There have been so many obstacles to my relationships with the people I love, to my relationship with school and with work, and to my relationship with myself. I like to think that for my little family, love has persisted. I think that’s what gives me the most hope for the future, for the “After.” For as many systems and homes and relationships that have been broken, there are so many that have endured. Doesn’t art seem a little more beautiful these days? Isn’t music a little more important? Aren’t books just a little bit more of an escape?
Every emotion, too, seems amplified. Anger is more palpable, sadness is more soaking, happiness more significant. When we’re left inside of our own heads for so long, we start to think more critically about our lives and about the society we operate inside of. There has been so much time to think, and I think that’s a good thing. This stasis has sparked a mobility that I’ve never encountered before, and I think it’s because we are all so hungry for change. Hungry before, now starving.
My hope is that we hit the ground running, in our relationships and in our society. I don’t want us to forget this time of isolation that has been so hard on everyone involved, because I think remembering it and the feelings that came with it will allow us to realize how important it is to be aggressive about our wants and needs. I hope we tell our friends we love them more. I hope we voice our dissatisfaction with the world, with society, and with politics with more fervor and anger than ever before. I hope we realize how important community is. I hope we come to understand what it really means to be a pack animal, part of a larger body to which we all contribute hearts and lungs and tears. I hope love endures.