It’s difficult to conceptualize the loss spent by a year inside without feeling selfish. While the young, healthy and privileged such as myself spent their time indoors, learning TikTok trends of coffee preparation and lamenting about time spent in quarters too tight with family, people across the nation and across the world were dying, or losing their jobs, or watching friends and family suffer.
Fear of losing housing and crushing medical bills were only the tip of the iceberg of horror that’s suffocated the U.S. since March 2020.
Though I’m certainly not a victim of anything serious, there’s, for lack of better terms, an isolation in isolation. There are no words that can capture the loneliness you experience as you watch friends go out while you sit at home, even when it's fuller than it has ever been.
Sentiments filled with nauseating ableism became a battle cry for high school and college-aged students, desperate to maintain their normal social lives. “Only the old and sick are going to die,” they’d say to their friends or in a reply to a comment on a Twitter post, critical of parties and social gatherings. “It doesn’t matter.”
It felt like a moment stepping into a hypochondriac’s shoes: Was I the crazy one for staying indoors, for taking something seriously even though my struggle was minimal? Grappling with seeing other people not taking it seriously at all, while being privileged enough to not have serious repercussions, was a lesson in cognitive dissonance.
When I was lucky enough to see the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) be so far from my doorstep, where did the rage at the lack of acknowledgement of it come from? Why did it feel like I was losing something?
For many students like myself, who went largely unaffected in concrete dangers to their lives by COVID-19, the past year is a nebulous, shapeshifting blob of “othered” tragedy. The scope of empathy extends to those who are more affected, and rarely lingers on others like us, for good reason.
Even writing this article feels half pointless: What the f*** does anyone need to hear from me for? I don’t have a particular tragedy, I didn’t struggle or suffer. My depression and disillusionment at being locked in is not the most important, nor the most interesting thing to come from more than a year in lockdown.
But our lives did change — college is supposed to be the best four years of your life, or so every single person over the age of 35 says the second they hear you’re attending. In-person lectures, parties, opportunities to be on campus — they’re all a part of the typical college experience. Learning felt like it halted, and social lives for many people actually did.
It was lonely to be at home, to see tragedy spill out in front of us and be unable to do anything about it, to feel swallowed by the scope of so many terrible things we could hardly process the disruption to our own lives. The most significant four years of many people’s educational careers felt incomplete, like there was a huge hole in the middle. Because there was.
It feels silly to pretend that anything good came out of lockdown, emotionally speaking. Humanity suffered a deep sense of loss and nothing can fill it. The lack of national unity was especially made clear in the way they acted with mask mandates and lockdowns and vaccines.
People’s true colors and priorities showed. And quite frankly, nothing truly good came out of the pandemic, or out of lockdown. It was wholly and unequivocally a loss for not only those who suffered a wider, more painful breadth of issues, but for college students, who have an entire year missing from their young adulthood.
The year of loss for college students isn’t something we can ever get back and with numbers rising and things not entirely gone back to normal, it’s not something we can, even in the near future, ever make up for.
Moving forward feels precarious at best, and a practice in Murphy’s Law at worst. But it’s the only thing we can do.