I know what you’re thinking. Another COVID article. Trust me, I myself am tired of the endless references, jokes, videos, articles, news cycles, conversations, forecasts, advertisements, events, podcast episodes, small talk, long talk, breakfast, lunch, and dinner conversational topics, shower thoughts, posts, anecdotes, vlogs, TED Talks, and reflections about life in a pandemic. By now, the entire world wants to move on from the pandemic.
March 13, 2020 marks the day when UofT shut campus down to in-person classes and transitioned to fully online classes. We recently passed the one year anniversary of COVID-coerced online school. It’s hard to not feel dismay at the amount of time we’ve spent in a quarantine that was first innocuously expected to be short-lived. For first years who’ve spent the better portion of a year meant to be brimming with new experiences academically, socially, and interpersonally from the silos of their home, I see you. For the second years who feel their time as a university student slipping through their fingers as another day in quarantine is docked down and the third years with PEY terms that went from being stimulating to spiritless or even cancelled, I see you. And of course, the fourth years whose new Convocation Hall will be Zoom, we see you too.
Skule™ is known for its tight-knit community. I’ve heard online-school-anecdotes hinting otherwise within the first year batch of 2020. A predominantly large source of Skule™ ’s warmth are the upper years. Just look at F!rosh Week. Without having anything to gain, upperclassmen extensively and dedicatedly plan F!rosh at the start of each year to ensure frosh feel wholeheartedly accepted at Skule™. Many upper years act as mentors or big-brother/sister figures to the incoming frosh, and even those not part of F!rosh, have a kind predisposition to welcome and support you in any way they can. This behaviour sets a precedent for the culture at Skule™ in the minds of the frosh. When I heard anecdotes of exclusion and mean-spirited competitiveness within the Class of 2024, I connected part of it to the pandemic hindering the establishment of such a precedent. We have tried our best to connect digitally to the frosh, but in-person positive experiences with upper years were daily, more intense, and palpable- something online school cannot supplant. Note: This doesn’t excuse those who create hostile environments, that’s not okay, but merely points to the circumstance created by the pandemic as being more conducive to a first year having less positive experiences in Skule™.
Even without considering these negative experiences, virtual learning has made it much harder for first years to make friends, have social, meaningful conversations, and attain feelings of belonging at Skule™ . So, if you’re a first year that’s alarmed by your disconnection from Skule™ , know you are not alone and your experiences are valid. There are always people at Skule™ rooting for you and wanting you to belong with them as much as you may want to belong with them. I hope you find that out for yourself soon, too.
Amongst my Skule™ peers and my friends, feelings of burnout have been a common occurrence. I’m sure you know someone (perhaps even yourself) who’s also felt burnt out during this pandemic. It is difficult to source motivation for pixelated lecture halls or to muster enough energy to harvest a report for a BBCollaborate lab, day after day. Burnout existed pre-pandemic too, but being on campus gave us more resilient armor against it. Encounters with friendly faces on campus provided small shots of encouragement fuel to power our packed days. Being in a space of possibility where we were set up to meet new people, try exciting new things, and discover new facets of ourselves created an aura of excitement that reminded us why we were here in the first place when the going got tough.
You may notice the tone of this article is a bit dreary. That was not intentional but if it does sound dreary, that is okay. This article is about validating the fears, the loneliness, the despair, the losses, the uncertainties and the monotony the pandemic may have brought you. I think we all feel tired by our individual distresses, by feeling the same draining emotions for indefinite periods of time. Is there a silver lining? There can be silver linings, but not an all pervading one. Only you can decide if there is a silver lining for your own individual experience and then decide what it is. You may decide there is no silver lining or you may see infinite. In both cases, you are right. But silver linings ensue after. First, there is the rain and that rainfall will drench you. This article is about that rainfall and fully feeling it. This is NOT about Covid. Yes, a lot of the negative sentiment mentioned is a consequence of Covid, but this is about you and your experiences.
For those of you who’ve been in the rain more than not recently, the next bit’s for you. You are not alone.
Let’s Talk About The Rain
your true companions on this earth are concealed amongst the trees and the clouds
when tears stream down, and you yearn for a place for your eyes to rest, to be placated,
turn them upwards, to the sky, away from the touch of mankind. a safe shroud
follow the path of the wind, as it makes its course
it is there for you, making an appearance to comfort you, and share:
i understand how it feels to be moved by an unceasing force
see the trees, side to side, they gently drift
huge like man-made buildings, but untethered, moving freely
they wave to you, reminding, it is okay to feel powerless