I was never the type of person to feel uncomfortable in social situations. Since I could speak, I wanted to be in front of an audience. One moment I was singing my heart out on my high school stage; the next, COVID-19 swept the nation, leaving the life I once knew behind.
It was my senior year of high school when things began to go downhill. In March of 2020, it was announced that I would be spending the remainder of my senior year in front of a computer screen—a devastating loss for an 18-year-old girl. No senior prom, field trips, sporting events, musicals. Graduation was an alienated ceremony, being mandated to stay 6 feet apart from peers I’ve spent hours with in classrooms.
Months of solidarity went by; staying home felt like second nature to me. Weeks bled into each other and it was hard to keep track of what day it was.
Without closure from my hometown life, I was left to start anew at SUNY New Paltz in the fall of 2020. I was met with rules and regulations which prevented me from fully immersing myself in the college experience. Campus was at less than half occupancy, and I wondered how it was in years prior.
There wasn’t much expected of me in the first year of school. Most classes were virtual, and if they were lucky enough to be in person, they required masks and distance from everyone. It was like living in a futuristic society. My roommate and I would rarely leave our room during the cold months, only venturing outside in the bitter cold for food every few days.
As the world began to defrost and summer showed its warm face once again, life was resuming to how it used to be. Announcements rang out that the fall semester would be as close to normal as possible. In-person classes were in full swing, and I was excited to finally experience all that I had been missing.
Clubs began to have regular meetings, and I decided to join the school newspaper, The New Paltz Oracle. This was an additional commitment to my class schedule, requiring me to be available Monday and Tuesday nights after 7 p.m. I was so excited to take on this new experience and see if I enjoyed it enough to continue doing so.
The first few weeks of my sophomore year, I felt great. I was attending meaningful lectures, collaborating with students in the newsroom, and my summer tan hadn’t worn off yet.
But, as the days grew colder and October gave a cold shoulder to Upstate New York, I grew exhausted. My body wasn’t used to the constant running around and being presentable. I felt tired and in need of a nap after completing one simple task. Social anxiety followed me to every gathering I attended. I was confused as to why I couldn’t be as outgoing as I once was.
After some journaling and self-reflection, I had come to the conclusion that the cause of my weariness was due to the months of isolation I had endured. It was difficult and exhausting to have things be expected of me when I couldn’t keep up with the pace of everyday life.
In the following weeks, I took more time to take care of myself. In a world of disarray, it’s essential to find comfort in alone time. It’s key to find outlets to express your creativity, even in the darkest of times. I encourage you, reader, to find your mode of expression during this trying time.
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