WoOoOow. It is unbelievable how life can change over the course of just a few months. My last life-update post was in January. And now… it’s June.
All of those plans I had; the dreams and expectations… vanished.
In Lubbock, I had a gym membership to Planet Fitness. I loved their “no judgement” brand and how all of the machines looked the same. It was a few miles away from my apartment, and in Lubbock, that’s pretty far away. I didn’t know a soul at that Planet Fitness and it was the perfect place to put in my Airpods, workout and let the world around me disappear.
Every day I chose the same treadmill — four machines away from the left aisle. In front of me was a line of more than ten flatscreen TVs that hung from the ceiling, probably to keep exercisers distracted from the time left in their workout. This particular treadmill was my favorite because I was right in front of one of the happier channels — and wasn’t all about news and politics, but as a journalism gal at heart, my eyes would occasionally wander to those channels too.
I first learned about COVID-19 on that treadmill. It was January or February when the numbers on the screen hit 80,000 cases. The virus was still, as far as we knew, overseas. It didn’t feel real. It just felt like something that was somewhere else. I was ignorant.
Every day I was on that treadmill, the number of cases kept going up. 90,000. 100,000. 250,000.
I remember sitting in the bathtub one night in February thinking about the possibilities if the virus came to America. I thought to myself, What if this thing changes my life?
No, I thought. That’s not going to happen.
And then it was in America.
The Thursday before spring break, March 9th, was my last day of class… ever.
My friends and I started seeing different schools in Texas announce on Twitter they were going to move to an online format for the following weeks. There’s no way, I thought.
Texas Tech made the announcement that day, saying we were going to get a second week of spring break as the professors make the transition to an online format. We were to have online school for a few weeks following (what my friends and I called) Spring Break 2.0.
I walked into my 12:30 pm Editing class to see Professor Eppler had written “Well this weird, huh?” on the PowerPoint slide that projected to the front of the classroom. He then proceeded to say, “This could be the last time we see each other face.” Professor Eppler was right.
I left class that day looking around the halls thinking What if this was the last day of class… ever? It was. Now, I wish I would have taken a few extra laps around the CoMC building that day.
The next weeks were chaos. Trump had banned travel to Europe for 30 days. The NBA was canceled. College sports were canceled. Everything was canceled or postponed.
Stay-at-home orders were placed on cities in the US, advising to stay inside, work from home and refrain from going out unless it was essential (doctors appointments, grocery shopping, etc.). Toilet paper sold out (literally) everywhere. Hand sanitizer was flying off the shelves. Companies started shifting their production to make more sanitizer and ventilators (until it was found that the ventilators didn’t help as much as doctors thought they would — at least for helping COVID19 patients).
The whole world was in chaos. No one had ever experienced a pandemic before. Even my grandparents said life during wartime was different. Coronavirus was an invisible enemy, new and entirely unpredictable — which is why it caused so much hysteria.
(Side note: One thing I enjoyed seeing were everyone’s reactions on social media (particularly TikTok). Millennials and Gen Zers were entirely clueless about the future yet stayed comical about the circumstances. It was comforting to know we were all going through it together.)
I was going to fly to NYC with my mom for a few days for SB and scope out neighborhoods, apartments and dream of what my life could be in the coming months. We decided to cancel the trip. Friends of mine still went to their spring break destinations… but after SB everyone stayed home.
TTU put out statements advising to stay home. And then another saying to move out of the dorms during spring break. And then another saying the rest of the semester would be in an online format. And then another saying graduation would be virtual (FYI — it was so sad). And now, in June, another saying our graduation that has been postponed to August (for the May 2020 grads, if we wanted to walk) was now going to be virtual too. As of right now, I am crossing my fingers and toes that I will be able to walk the stage and turn my tassel come December.
None of this feels real. If I am going to be honest… I have cried a lot over this. I’m a planner — always have been. With COVID19, my plans have changed, been postponed and changed again. I kept waiting— waiting to see if this thing would clear up so I could still visit Europe during the summer of 2020. Waiting to see if I could still move to New York.
But now, I realize that NYC will have to wait. Europe will have to wait.
In addition, my sorrow from COVID19 comes from the 10 weeks that were stolen away from my senior year. This was the prime time that college students look forward to most. As a Delta Gamma, I had been looking forward to our Senior Queens ritual, senior recommitment rituals and other special moments, in person and with my sisters. (Oh gosh.. this is hard to write! I’m tearing up just thinking about it)
As a student, I never got to say goodbye to the professors that I had stressed to, learned from and grew with. If you get a great professor, like the ones in CoMC, they’re like your college parents and it still hurts a bit when you don’t get to say goodbye properly and thank them for shaping your undergrad experience.
I wish I could have walked the stage with my peers. This one hurts so much. I was never really involved in high school but did a 180 for college. I was in AWC, SPJ, an ambassador for CoMC, DG, MCTV. In all of those organizations, I had peers that I had spent the last four years getting to know. We studied together, worked together, partied together and got through college together. I wanted so bad to experience graduation with them and to look at one another, in a sea of black gowns and red, TTU stoles and say, “We did the damn thing.” (Still — fingers and toes crossed it will happen one day.)
I envy high school seniors. Yes, we both have similar pains about this situation, but I am jealous of their return to a sense of schooling normalcy. They will still get to have classes and teachers and schedules come fall, but college seniors aren’t returning to those luxuries. We are barrelling forward (in a semi-terrifying economy) into our adult lives and expectations, during a time where the only thing we are truly sure of is COVID19’s unpredictability. (It’s June 23rd today and there is already talk of a second wave.)
But we’re strong. We adapted and got through this challenge. We’re smart, tech-savvy. College grads, it will be okay.
Even though this experience has truly knocked the wind out of me, I’ve become more grateful. This whole thing really makes you evaluate your life, appreciate what you already have and cherish the small moments you take for granted.
I’m thankful for my health and my family’s health. Even though the finale to my college experience wasn’t what I was expecting, I’m still thankful to have had four, incredible and memorable years in Lubbock, Texas.
As for my plans now, I have decided to stay in Austin. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m ready to begin my adult life.
Cheers to the Class of 2020!