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  • The Griffin

An Entire School Year with COVID: What Now?

By Julia Barth, Asst. Features Editor

At the onset of the fall 2020 semester, I wrote an article for The Griffin called “Practicing Self-Care During a Time of Uncertainty” in which I detailed some ways students at Canisius could focus on their mental health, as well as the impact the pandemic has had on mental health.

Looking back on it, I can’t help but laugh at my naivete within my writing. It’s not that what I advised was bad or wrong — I’m still a proponent for taking mental health days, utilizing the counseling center and taking up stress-free hobbies — but eight months later, it's hard to see that many people are still struggling with the same things. Burnout. Anxiety. Depression. As the New York Times called it — languishing.

After that article was published, devastation continued to ensue as the world saw its highest peak of pandemic cases, hospitalizations and deaths over the winter months, and countries like Brazil and India are still seeing uncontrollable surges to this day. I can guarantee that many of you know more people now who have had the virus than you did in September. And if you don’t, well, the writer of this article did, so now you know.

An entire school year has passed in the pandemic, and it’s important to reflect on the impact it has made. We all realize that online school and Zoom meetings are insufferable, but maybe that will make us appreciate our classes in person next year. We all realize that missing important school events is devastating, but maybe that will make us value the thought and effort behind these events and attend them once they start up again. We all realize that we have practically missed an entire year of our lives, but maybe that will make us take advantage of the rest of them and spend time close to the people we love.

With all that being said, there is hope on the horizon. More and more Americans are being vaccinated, and that has contributed to the significant decline in virus cases and deaths in the United States in the last few months. More vaccine doses are being made and administered, a new vaccine is on the horizon to support developing nations in their efforts, and on Thursday, the Biden administration announced that it would work with the World Trade Organization to waive vaccine patents in order to promote a global vaccination campaign.

This is all encouraging news, and Americans are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Some restrictions are being lifted, people are seeing their families again after months of going without, and friends are able to get together without fear. I can imagine that these get-togethers end with a lot of people noting how exciting and normal it feels to talk and chat and laugh again.

As we take these steps together as humans who have all just experienced being isolated and at home for over a year now, it’s a good thing to look back on this experience and remember how it defined you. Obviously, we all wish the pandemic never happened. People lost their health, their loved ones, their jobs and their ways of living. But for a lot of people, the pandemic has taught them many things they might not have discovered any other way.

A lot of people will never take the time they have with their loved ones for granted again, some people have picked up new hobbies and habits that have changed their outlook, many have reevaluated their entire lives whether that be their career, living situation, relationships or friendships, and others have just learned how to be alone — which more people are realizing isn’t always a bad thing.

Over a year into the pandemic (and a full school year within it), people are beginning to learn how to socialize again, how to be around new people again, how to make a friend in class and how to hop back into all the aspects of college after being online and distanced — physically and emotionally — for an entire academic year now.

I saw a tweet the other day that said, “I really left college as a freshman and am returning as a junior,” and it really struck a chord within me. Sometimes it does feel like that. It feels like my junior year is where everything will pick up again, and my sophomore year of the pandemic should just be something I try to forget and block out of my memory.

But I can guarantee that no one would be the person they are today if it wasn’t for how the pandemic shaped them and their lives. Through all of the trials and tribulations, I wouldn’t trade the movie nights, dorm hangouts, socially distanced school events, hybrid classes and late night walks because “there’s nothing else to do anyways” for anything. So I’ve made a pact with myself not to forget this year but to draw from my feelings and experiences so as to make the rest of my time at Canisius memorable. I hope you’ll do the same.

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