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I’ve been irresponsible lately. All I want to do is hang out with my friends, all the time, and I don’t want to do my homework, or my regular work, and I don’t even want to participate in the cultural movement that is “Me Time”, because that tends to involve being alone, and I’m sick of being alone.
At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, I decided not to return to campus, fearing the particular type of depression that might arise from being constantly just six feet out of reach from all the people I love the most. I stand by this decision, but I see now that no matter the choices I could have made, the transition back into a world where I could touch my friends would have left me overwhelmed with the desire to make up for the time I feel we lost together.
This year, my college shenanigans are unfolding consecutively and at hyper-speed. We’ve all heard of “Lawrence Time”, the theory that time condenses on this campus, and then suddenly it’s ninth week, and you still haven’t bought your plane ticket home. (Maybe this is how all liberal arts students feel, and it’s just something about being in a small place with a fairly stagnant population,; or maybe there’s a space-time vortex in the bowels of The Con.) I’m certain that Lawrence Time is operating in overdrive right now, because we’ve been watching three to four movies a week, going to the VR every Wednesday night, baking an excessive amount of zucchini bread (because the SLUG Garden zucchinis are unusually massive this year) , and lounging about the Commons from the beginning of brunch until the end of lunch on Saturday mornings. In the spaces between, I’m either barely sentient or asleep.
Literally out of nowhere we’re coming up on Reading Period, the four blessed days each term when everything slows down, and I can already feel the impending self-reflection that I’m usually able to block out if I keep myself busy enough. I’m realizing, or I at least logically know, that as Ben Franklin once said, lost time can never be found again. And I know that I could not have chosen a more generic quote from a more generic historical white man, but I think it’s the most obvious of rules that we tend to forget about when we get wrapped up in the search for their loopholes. There’s no amount of zeal that I could bring to any amount of hours passed with friends that would make up for the year that was stolen from us all.
As sick as I am of hearing about all the lessons we wouldn’t have learned had it not been for the pandemic, I can’t ignore its relevance to my argument. Yes, I’ve learned about the transience of everything and the fragility of human society, yada-yada-yada. The problem is that I must admit I would trade in these valuable lessons to eliminate the existence of the tragic fable from whence they came. What if the virus had come and gone from our periphery just as we anticipated in those early days of 2020? Call me bitter, overdramatic, etc., but my heart physically hurts when I think about that blissfully ignorant alternate universe.
Granted, I speak as a college student who is basically complaining about not having had as many opportunities to party throughout her glory days. On the other hand, the value of human connection cannot be understated, and all I’m really trying to say is that I missed my friends so, so much; too much, even, because I’m holding on with a white-knuckle grip to every minute we spend together, neglecting the quieter activities I used to find time for, because I’m just so scared of it all getting taken away again. It turns out I am traumatized by the pandemic, just like they said we’d all be.
I’m hoping that I’ll calm down a bit as the school year progresses, because with everything that’s happened, I’ve nearly forgotten that I’m simultaneously already and only five-and-a-half weeks into my last year of college. But I hesitate to think about “coming to terms” with all this lost time, at least at this point in my developmental stage. At best, I’ll write a pensive journal entry over Reading Period in which I’ll momentarily realize that this is merely another beautifully painful part of life, a mystery of the universe, and I’ll swear to relinquish control and change my ways… and by the time Monday, Oct. 25th rolls around, I’ll have forgotten all about my proclamations, and find another movie we simply must watch, another drink we’ve got to try, a fourth loaf of zucchini bread we have to bake.